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Man charged with killing three in Gray gets new attorney

Becky Campbell • Updated Feb 13, 2018 at 10:44 PM

The Sullivan County man charged with killing a couple and leaving their children alone in their Gray home has a new attorney after his previous counsel discovered a conflict of interest.

Derrick Benjamin Sells, 33, appeared in Washington County Criminal Court Monday for a brief hearing so Judge Lisa Rice could grant the withdrawal and appoint a new attorney.

Sells was charged in the shooting deaths of Kyanna Howes Vaughn, 23, and Robert Aaron Vaughn, 25, who were found dead around 7 p.m. Dec. 4 by a friend who went to check on them. That friend found the Vaughns dead inside their mobile home at 616 Friendship Court.

Kyanna Vaughn was seven months pregnant when she was killed, according to investigators.

Assistant Public Defender Bill Francisco told the judge that after he began to go through case details provided by state prosecutors, he discovered there were names of people related to the case that his office had previous contact with. Due the nature of that contact, Francisco said it was inappropriate for his office to continue with the case.

Rice agreed and appointed Johnson City attorney Steve Finney to represent Sells. 

Evidence at the scene as well as information found on Robert Vaughn’s cellphone led investigators to Sells, and he was arrested on an outstanding warrant after a surveillance operation by Washington County and Sullivan County sheriff’s investigators.

Sells 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 authorities said he had a loaded weapon in the car.

In addition to the weapon, Sells reportedly had clothing items that belonged to Robert Vaughn in his vehicle.

He was indicted by a special called Washington County grand jury Dec. 18 on three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of felony murder (murder in the commission of a felony), one count of aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated child abuse/neglect.

At Sells’ arraignment Jan. 4, Francisco filed a motion to restrict publicity in the case. Rice set a motion hearing for Jan 9, and at that hearing she granted the gag order motion as well as a motion to allow Sells to wear street clothes during his court appearances. He did not wear street clothes during Monday’s hearing. His next court date is April 16 for a motions hearing.

Sells remains jailed on a $1 million bond.

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