Tuesday, June 06, 2000

Gunman, lawyer killed in shootout


One was prosecutor, the other defendant

By Steve Bailey
The Associated Press

        BURKESVILLE, Ky. — A habitual criminal burst into a prosecutor's home, where both died in a shootout early Monday, hours before the gunman was to be tried on charges he molested a child.

        Commonwealth's Attorney Fred Capps, 46, was shot multiple times and died at the scene, Kentucky State Police spokesman Jer ry Melton said.

        The gunman, identified as Eddie Vaughn, 49, also was found dead inside the home by state police troopers shortly after 6 a.m., Mr. Melton said.

        An autopsy showed two shots from Mr. Capps' gun killed Mr. Vaughn, police said. Witnesses said Mr. Capps died trying to protect his family.

        Mr. Vaughn was to stand trial in Cumberland Circuit Court on Monday, with Mr. Capps as prosecutor, on two charges of first-degree sexual abuse involving a child younger than 12, circuit court Clerk Hazel Jones said.

        Mr. Vaughn's wife, Patricia, and brother, James, were arrested at the scene. Neither was armed, but both were charged with murder. The two were lodged at Adair Regional Jail in Columbia.

        Mr. Capps' wife, Cathy, witnessed the incident. State police said she was nicked by debris, but not seriously wounded. The couple's two children, John, 16, and Lydia, 11, were asleep in their upstairs bedrooms and were not hurt, Mr. Melton said.

        Mr. Capps was prosecutor for Adair, Casey, Cum berland and Monroe counties in southern Kentucky. Mr. Capps also shared a law practice with his wife, who is assistant commonwealth's attorney in this town of 1,800 about 140 miles south of Louisville near the Tennessee border.

        They shared city attorney duties for the city of Burkesville.

        “This is a tragedy for the entire community,” said Mr. Melton, a friend of the Cappses for more than two decades. “It's hard to stand here with your game face on and talk about friends in

        these terms.”

        Witnesses said Eddie Vaughn shot his way into the home with an assault rifle.

        “I heard the shots and saw this boy standing at the doorway shooting into the house,” said neighbor Mack Walker, whose family has lived across the street from the Cappses for more than 25 years. “As soon as I saw him go into the house, I knew Fred was in trouble and told my wife to call the law.

        “He was shooting ... bam, bam, bam ... just as hard and fast as he could. There were shells all over the porch and the doorknob was shot clean off.”

        The Cappses' next-door neighbors, Robert and Jean Polston, also heard the shots and called police.

        “The first shot woke me up,” Robert Polston said. “Then it sounded like a machine gun. There were probably 20 or 30 shots in the first few seconds.”

        When the gunfire stopped, James Vaughn emerged from a field behind the Cappses' house and surrendered to po lice while Patricia Vaughn remained in a car in the Cappses' circular driveway, Mr. Walker said.

        Police would not say why the two accompanied Eddie Vaughn to the scene, or exactly what prompted the murder charges against them.

        James Vaughn “said that his brother went crazy and didn't know what he was doing,” Mr. Walker said. “He stood right here and told police that his brother had done the shooting and that he threatened to kill him and the lady after he killed Fred.”

        Monday afternoon, plainclothes detectives were collecting evidence from the Cappses' two-story brick home with four white columns. The front door, its handle blown off by gunfire, had been removed, and five bullet holes were visible in the pane of a front window.

        “There are dozens of shell casings and bullet fragments in the interior of the home, which would indicate a tremendous amount of gunfire,” Mr. Melton said.

        Eddie Vaughn was a Cumberland County native but had moved to Louisville, where he had a lengthy arrest record. He had been arrested in the 1980s on several charges, including alcohol intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, said Diane Curtis, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Corrections Department.

        Eddie Vaughn was last arrested in Jefferson County June 4, 1999, on a marijuana possession charge, she said. Police learned he was wanted on the sexual abuse charges, she said.

       



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