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WCSO: Washington County triple murder defendant cuts neck night before 1st court appearance

Becky Campbell • Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 9:37 PM

A Fall Branch man charged in a triple homicide that left a couple and their unborn child dead in their home last month was scheduled for arraignment in the case Wednesday, but he was hospitalized Tuesday night after an apparent attempted suicide.

According to Washington County Sheriff’s Office Chief Operation Officer Leighta Laitinen, Derrick Benjamin Sells cut his throat and caused a serious but not life-threatening injury Tuesday night. He was transported to an area hospital and was expected to be released Wednesday afternoon, so the arraignment was rescheduled for Thursday.

Sells, 33, was indicted by a special called Washington County grand jury Dec.18 on three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated child abuse/neglect after investigators followed leads that took them to him. He’s accused of killing Robert Aaron ‘Rac” Vaughn, 25, and his wife, Kyanna Howes Vaughn, 24, on Dec. 3 inside their Friendship Court mobile home in Boones Creek. The child neglect charge stemmed from Sells leaving the couple’s two young children alone with no one to care for them.

The couple had married in July and were expecting their first child together, but according to friends and family comments on social media, Robert Vaughn treated the two kids as his own.

Their bodies were found by a friend who went to check on them after being unable to reach the couple by phone, officials said. The friend found the two shot to death in a bedroom. Kyanna Vaughn was six to seven months pregnant, according to Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal.

Two children, ages 6 and 3, were left at the residence unharmed, and had been alone since the shootings, officials said.

Washington County sheriff’s Investigators and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents developed Sells as a suspect after they obtained cellphone records and learned Sells and Aaron Vaughn had talked on the phone Dec. 3.

Officers began surveillance on Sells, and he was arrested by Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office deputies Dec. 12 when he left his residence. Sells was initially arrested on an outstanding violation of probation warrant in Sullivan County, but he got new charges because he had a loaded weapon in the car.

In a press release Wednesday afternoon, Graybeal said that a detention officer and a staff nurse found Sells bleeding in his cell while conducting rounds. They applied pressure to control the bleeding and called 911. Sells was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center by Washington County/Johnson City EMS medics.

Sells has been held in the Washington County Detention Center on a $1 million bond.

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