Cryptic poem found in Ill. cell

Prosecutors said the poem, written in a coded alphabet and decrypted by the FBI, appears to be a list of things to do

By Jon Seidel
Chicago Sun-Times

JOLIET, Ill. — Attorneys in the Christopher Vaughn murder trial have finished picking his jury, but they're expected back in a Joliet courtroom Wednesday to deal with a cryptic poem allegedly found in his jail cell months after his family was killed.

Prosecutors said the poem, written in a coded alphabet and decrypted by the FBI, appears to be a list of things to do. One item on the list, they said, is "ask maya the question."

They said Maya Drake - identified in previous court records as a dancer at a gentlemen's club in Chicago - was an "unwitting" part of Vaughn's plan to start a new life. They said his poem is an admission that he planned to reach out to her one day.

Drake has told investigators that Vaughn, 37, visited her at the club several times, according to a 2010 motion filed by a former Vaughn defense attorney.

She said they had several conversations and he told her he planned to divorce his wife, Kimberly, and move to Canada.

She also said he gave her a poem about "ancient souls" and bad timing, which she turned over to police.

Prosecutors said the latest "coded" poem was found on Oct. 16, 2007, four months after police found Vaughn's wife and their three children - Abigayle, 12; Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8, shot to death in the family's SUV, which was parked on a frontage road west of Interstate 55.

Vaughn suffered minor gunshot wounds on his leg and wrist.

He claimed his wife had shot him and, when he fled, turned the gun on their children before killing herself.

He was charged with murdering all four of them.

Prosecutors have said he may have wanted to abandon his life in Oswego to live in the Canadian wilderness.

His wife had a $1 million life insurance policy that listed him as a beneficiary.

Vaughn has said that his wife was angry at him on the day of the shootings because he had confessed he had an affair.

Judge Daniel Rozak has ruled that jurors can hear about the anti-seizure drug Topamax that Kimberly Vaughn was taking when she was killed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned it could increase the risk of suicidal behavior.

As Vaughn prepared in 2010 for his trial, his lawyers asked the judge to bar testimony about Vaughn's visits with dancers at strip clubs.

They said he also visited a dancer named Chrystal Miller at Scores in Stone Park who said Vaughn spent "large sums of money" there and lied about being a single man from Naperville.

She said he gave her a strange feeling and he made comments about "knowing what would happen in the future."

Miller tried to avoid a subpoena from prosecutors ordering her to testify at Vaughn's trial, but she eventually cooperated.

Prosecutors asked Rozak on Friday if they could show Vaughn's encrypted poem to jurors.

The lawyers had planned to deal with the issue on Thursday, but jury selection ended early Tuesday, and they agreed to move the hearing to Wednesday.

An eight-man, four-woman jury will decide whether Vaughn is guilty of killing his family. Five women and one man were chosen Tuesday to sit in on the trial as alternates.

Opening statements are scheduled to start Monday.

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