Death threats yield prison time
TUNKHANNOCK - A 34-year-old Towanda man was sentenced to 18-60 months in state prison for using a communication device to try to hire a hit man to take out three psychics in 2012.
Craven Michael Vaughn sat motionless as he watched his mother, Sally Vaughn of Towanda, describe to Wyoming County President Judge Russell Shurtleff a difficult 16 months which her family had to endure as a result of her son's "out-of-character" behavior.
"I hope you will listen that our son needs help," Mrs. Vaughn said.
While on the witness stand, she noted that about 17 years earlier she began seeing changes in her son's behavior. "We recognize that he is mentally ill now, something I was unwilling to admit before this incident," Mrs. Vaughn said.
Vaughn pleaded guilty but mentally ill in February to three counts of using a communication facility to hire a hit man, who actually turned out to be an undercover state trooper, to kill three psychic mediums.
The targets of the hits were identified as television personalities James Van Praagh and Maureen Hancock, and author David M. Baker.
At Vaughn's preliminary hearing 14 months ago the trooper who was the would-be hit man said he distinctly remembers being given $3,000, and he had $350 more if need be.
"I said, are you sure you want these people murdered?" The trooper testified. "He said he did, and I said, 'You know once the ball gets rolling, there's no turning back.' "
On Wednesday, Vaughn's attorney, Curt Parkins, asked for leniency, noting that Vaughn had no prior record.
"But for the mental illness, he wouldn't be here before you today," Parkins told Judge Shurtleff.
District Attorney Jeff Mitchell said there was no question about Vaughn's needing long-term treatment, "but he offered to take out three potential victims and that can just be ignored."
Judge Shurtleff laid out three identical sentences of 18-60 months in the state correctional institute for each of three counts, with all three sentences to be served concurrently.
He also ordered a mental health evaluation and implored Vaughn to follow all mental health treatments, and especially to take his medication.