If Ohio police officer Bobby Cutts and Illinois man Christopher Vaughn are convicted, they likely had very different reasons.
Two Midwestern daddies stand charged with killing their loved ones, and they face long prison sentences and even death should they be found guilty of the recent murders of their partners and children.
But the murders of Jessie Davis, a very pregnant Ohio mother, and of the Vaughn family in their sport utility vehicle in Illinois were driven by very different motives, experts said Monday.
Ohio policeman Bobby Cutts Jr. likely killed nine-months pregnant partner Davis in her North Canton home in a fit of rage after a fight that left her home in disarray, experts said.
And though his soon-to-be-born baby daughter also died inside her mother’s uterus, Cutts likely wasn’t thinking about the harm he was inflicting on anyone but Davis, said Geoffrey McKee, a forensic psychologist who specializes in infanticide and family murder.
Cutts, 30, was ordered held Monday on $5 million bail, charged with murdering Davis and the unborn baby June 13 in front of their 2-year-old, Blake Davis. Blake was unharmed and found home alone in a dirty diaper two days later by his maternal grandmother.
“It wasn’t the child (Cutts was) trying to control, it’s his partner,” said Sheryl Cates, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Davis’ pregnancy made her particularly vulnerable, Cates said. She would have been very focused on the impending birth of her daughter, whom she had planned to name Chloe, due July 3 –- perhaps distracted enough to make the baby’s father jealous.
“Women really focus on the baby, which really creates a stressful situation for him,” Cates said. “She’s not caring for him as he wants or needs.”
And Davis’ fatigue at the end of her third trimester may have left her feeling more emotional in a fight.
An argument between the parents was more likely to escalate out of control.
“If (Cutts) did do it, he wasn’t killing the fetus as much as he was killing his (partner),” said McKee. “Potentially killing the 2-year-old was not part of his plan.”
That’s contrary to the very deliberate, fatal shootings of Kimberly Vaughn, 34, and her three children, Abigayle, 12, Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8, McKee said.
The children were found June 14 in a SUV parked off Interstate 55 in unincorporated Will County, Ill., some 45 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, each with two shots to the head. Their mother had one bullet wound in her head, the shot fired, police said, to make it look as if she pulled the trigger herself.
Christopher Vaughn had a bullet wound in his leg that he told investigators his wife had inflicted on him before turning the gun on her children and herself. He also told police in another version of his story he didn’t know how he got wounded.
Investigators used ballistics testing – including gunshot residue tests on Kimberly Vaughn’s hands – to determine she had not fired the weapon.
Christopher Vaughn was arrested Saturday in St. Charles, Mo., right before his family’s funeral. He also faced a judge Monday in Missouri, where his bail was revoked. Illinois began extradition proceedings to return him to Will County, Ill., a procedure Vaughn’s attorney said he will fight.
Moms rarely kill children who’ve outgrown infancy, and rarely use weapons to do so, McKee said. And when they do take the lives of their offspring, mental illness is to blame more times than when fathers are the culprits.
“When dads kill, they kill primarily out of rage, not mental illness,” McKee said. “They kill out of frustration; they kill out of rage.”
Until medical examiners release Davis’ cause of death, the motive for her slaying – or whether it had been planned – remains unclear, McKee said. A shooting or poisoning would indicate some premeditation, he said, unlike a strangling or unlucky blow.
The medical examiner in Summit County, Ohio, said Monday she did not yet have a timeline for her determination into Davis’ cause of death. Nor did her office say anything about paternity tests on Davis' unborn baby.
“The investigation into Jessie Davis' death is continuing,” said a recording at the Summit County Medical Examiner's office Monday.
When the 26-year-old’s body was pulled from the ground Saturday, officials said it would be tricky to pinpoint immediately what killed her because of decomposition.
Prosecutors in Will County haven’t decided whether they will seek the death penalty in Vaughn’s case. Stark County, Ohio, prosecutors also said it’s too early to make a decision on capital punishment.
GateHouse News Service Reporter Lauren FitzPatrick may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (630) 348-3358.