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Pa. man sentenced in girlfriend's murder

April 22, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Fayetteville, Pa., man who shot and killed his girlfriend in front of her mother and children was sentenced in Franklin County Court on Wednesday to 15 to 40 years in state prison.

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Victor Harold Vaughn Jr., 45, formerly of 1472 Mountain Shadow Terrace, pleaded guilty March 8 to third-degree murder in the Nov. 19, 1997, death of Tonya Marie Caldwell, 29, with whom he lived.

"He said he loved my sister, but I never saw it," said John Staley of Fayetteville. "I saw a man who had to threaten, strike and kill ... to get his own way," he said.

Staley directed some of his comments at Vaughn and defense attorney H. Anthony Adams asked Judge John R. Walker to have him direct his remarks to the court.

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"Mr. Vaughn isn't here for a good citizenship award," Walker said, allowing Staley to continue.

"My mother, who was sitting only three or four feet away, had to witness this," Staley told Vaughn. Caldwell's two sons were also in the house and Staley said they have been severely affected by the killing.

Staley said Vaughn was angry because Caldwell had asked him to move out. She was shot in the chest and neck, according to court records.

"Don't tell me you didn't know what you were doing," Staley said.

"Victor took Tonya's rights away, so why does he have the right to anything?" said Caldwell's niece, Stacey Hess, of Mont Alto, Pa. She said he will be only 60 years old when he is released.

Walker told her Vaughn could serve longer than 15 years, but even if he serves just the minimum, "It will be 15 years of hard time."

At the time the plea was accepted, Assistant District Attorney David W. Rahauser said Vaughn fit the legal definition of diminished capacity.

"It was not an intentional act. ... In this case there are real mental health issues" before and after the shooting, Adams told Walker. He said Vaughn suffers from hallucinations and is a borderline schizophrenic.

He said the 15-year minimum sentence, which was a condition of the plea agreement, is twice the standard range for third-degree murder.

"You got tongue-lashed today by the family and you deserved it," Walker told Vaughn. The judge said Vaughn's family could visit him in prison, but Caldwell's family "has to go out to the cemetery and look at a cold tombstone."

Before pronouncing sentence, Walker asked Vaughn if he had anything to say.

"I can't think of anything," Vaughn said.

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