New evidence in triple homicide

Becky Campbell • Mar 31, 2019 at 11:50 AM

A Washington County triple murder case had a new twist this week after the defendant’s attorneys wouldn’t accept new information state prosecutors discovered because the defense believed it violated a judge’s order.

The state located another sitter for Derrick Sells the day after a three-part motion hearing and after Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice filed a written order with a cutoff date for all discovery in the case to be handed over to the defense. Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle said she followed that order, but that new information surfaced — in the form of a former inmate who was one of several designated to sit and watch Sells around the clock while he was on suicide watch.

Derrick Benjamin Sells is charged with the shooting deaths of Kyanna Howes Vaughn, 23, Robert Aaron Vaughn, 25, and their unborn child. The two were found dead around 7 p.m. Dec. 4, 2017, inside their mobile home on Friendship Court. According to investigators, the friend who found the bodies also found two young children left to fend for themselves inside the home.

Sells was not in court Thursday when his attorneys, Steve Finney and Scott Shults, appeared to ask Rice for clarification of her order. They filed a notice Feb. 21 regarding discovery and the order. That handwritten order, filed Feb. 11, does state that “since this matter has been pending in excess of 13 months, any discovery material in possession of the state that has not been provided to the defense will not be admitted in evidence at trial.”

McArdle argued that the new witness had not been located prior to the February date of Rice’s order on discovery material and should be treated as new evidence.

“The state didn’t even have this the information,” prior to the order and “it’s new evidence and Mr. Finney refused to take it,” McArdle told the judge.

Finney said he was trying to abide by the judge’s order, but Rice said her order didn’t mean newly discovered evidence. The defense asked for a motion hearing to be heard further on the matter. Rice will hear that motion on April 24.

Sells remains jailed on a $100,000 bond.


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