Pa. man pleads guilty to killing live-in girlfriend

March 08, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Fayetteville, Pa., man charged with the 1997 shooting death of his live-in girlfriend pleaded guilty to third-degree homicide Monday during an appearance in Franklin County Court.

Victor Harold Vaughn Jr., 45, of 1472 Mountain Shadow Terrace, will serve no less than 15 years in prison for the killing of Tonya Marie Caldwell, according to the terms of a plea agreement. A conviction on a charge of third-degree homicide carries a maximum of 40 years in prison.

"With the way parole is these days, he'll probably serve considerably more," Vaughn's attorney, H. Anthony Adams, said.

Vaughn shot Caldwell, 29, twice at their home on the evening of Nov. 19, 1997, according to Pennsylvania State Police records.

"He met the legal definition of diminished capacity," Assistant District Attorney David W. Rahauser said when asked why the prosecution agreed to a plea bargain.


"He was suffering from a true mental illness before they even met," Adams said. He said Vaughn had been hospitalized in the past for problems including manic depression and borderline schizophrenia.

"He's not insane. He understands his actions. He knows it's wrong," Adams said. At the same time, he said Vaughn is not sure why he killed Caldwell.

"He shot my sister not more than three feet from my mother, and she lives with this every day," said Caldwell's brother, John Staley, of Fayetteville.

"It was a hard choice to make," Staley said about his family's decision to accept the plea agreement.

"God knows what would happen if we went through a jury trial," he said.

Caldwell was working as a nursing assistant at a nursing home at the time of her death, according to Staley. She and Vaughn had been living together for less than a year.

Staley said the killing has affected many lives beside those of his family. He said he felt badly for Vaughn's family, but not for him.

Vaughn's sentencing is scheduled for April 21, according to court records.

The Herald-Mail Articles