EVIL Christopher Vaughn murdered his wife and three children in cold blood – then tried to blame his dead wife!

“It sounds too awful to be true, but it actually happened,” said Charles Pelkie of the state’s attor­ney’s office in Will County, Ill.

State’s Attorney James Glasgow added: “This case is not just a murder, it’s an atrocity. To annihi­late your family, I can’t think of a more despicable crime.”

VAUGHN, a 37-year old com­puter specialist, wiped out his family because he want­ed to become a hermit in the Canadian wilderness, authorities say.

“He was held back by four major obstacles,” prosecutor Chris Regis said. “Those four obstacles were eliminated on June 14, 2007.”

That was the day villain Vaughn roused his family in the wee hours, promising them a surprise trip to a water park. But shortly after 5 a.m. the fiend pulled the fam­ily’s SUV off the road, put a pistol under his 34-year-old wife Kim­berly’s chin, and pulled the trigger.

Then he ruthlessly shot each of his children – Abigayle, 12, Cas­sandra, 11, and Blake, 8 – once in the chest and head while they were buckled in the back seat.

Abigayle was holding a stuffed animal. Blake had his arm raised to shield himself.

“Here was a nice middle-class family living in a beautiful house in the Chicago suburbs and suddenly in a hail of gunfire it was gone – ended by the very person who should have been protecting them,” said a law en­forcement source.

“It defies belief.”

After the carnage, a passer-by spotted Vaughn on the side of the road, apparently injured, and called police. When cops ar­rived, they found Vaughn with two minor bullet wounds, and his wife and kids murdered. He told police that his wife had shot and wounded him, killed the children and then committed suicide.

But during their investiga­tion, authorities learned Vaughn yearned to ditch the modern world and his family in the quiet town of Oswego, and disappear to a remote cabin in the Yukon.

In an online message to a friend, he wrote: “I hear you about not fit­ting into society, I am the same way. I’d rather follow a set of tracks through a river in the rain than have to spend time on a paved road or under a roof. I am working on wrap­ping up a few last things and then I am headed out for the long walk.”

Authorities also discovered Vaughn harbored a “secret crush” on an exotic dancer, and that he had taken out a $1 million life insurance policy on his wife with himself as a beneficiary.

“He’s ready to drop off the face of the earth and disappear,” said pros­ecutor Regis. At his trial, Vaughn’s defense attorney claimed Kimberly was suicidal over marriage troubles and was affected emotionally by an­tidepressant pills. He claimed she shot Vaughn in the wrist and leg, and then killed her children and herself.

“She was of the mindset that if she was gone, they were better off with her…‘Come with me to heaven,’ ” he said.

Prosecutors said the truth was that Vaughn shot himself to make it look like his wife was the killer.

After a 5 1/2-week trial, jurors deliberated for only 45 minutes before finding Vaughn guilty. He was sen­tenced to four consecutive life sentences with no pos­sibility of parole.

“He showed no remorse,” said Pelkie. “He was completely emotionless throughout his trial and sentencing.”

AT Vaughn’s sentencing, his wife’s identical twin sister Susan Ledbet­ter told the packed courtroom: “Our hearts ache in the knowledge that they were priceless to everyone but the one man who should have loved them more than his own life.”

Kimberly Vaughn’s mother Susan Phillips added: “All the defendant had to do was walk away.”

Her father Del Phillips said he’ll forever be haunted by images of “four hearses and four caskets.”

And he figures that spending the rest of his life in a prison cell may be the worst punishment of all for Vaughn, who yearned to live surrounded by nature far from civilization.

Said Phillips: “He is, in effect, in a death penalty right now.”