November 12, 2018
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Man charged with murder in death of young pregnant mom with Ashland roots

Courtesy of Robert Labbe
Courtesy of Robert Labbe
Kyanna Howes Vaughn, bottom left, with her son Noah, mother Michelle holding daughter Avery, and grandmother Dianne.

Authorities in Tennessee have arrested and charged a man in connection with the murder of a pregnant mother originally from Ashland, Maine, and her husband.

A friend of the couple found Kyanna Howes Vaughn, 23, and Robert Vaughn, 25, dead from gunshot wounds on Dec. 4 in the bedroom of their mobile home in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Kyanna Howes Vaughn, who was pregnant with the couple’s third child, was born in Ashland and moved to Tennessee as a child with her mother and three siblings, according to cousin Andrea Walsh of Swanville.

On Dec. 9, Tennessee police arrested and charged Derrick Benjamin Sells, 33, of Fall Branch, Tenn., with three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of felony murder, unlawful possession of a weapon, aggravated robbery and aggravated child neglect, according to Ed Graybeal, Sheriff of Washington County, Tenn.

Graybeal said police have not yet established a possible motive for the crime.

The shooting took place on Dec. 3, and the couple’s bodies were discovered the next day by a friend who went to the home after he had been unable to reach them for two days. The couple’s two young children, ages 3 and 6, witnessed the shootings but were not physically harmed, Graybeal said at a press conference live-streamed by the Johnson City Press.

Sells was on probation for charges including aggravated assault on a police officer and had previous drug convictions, Graybeal said. A handgun was found beneath the driver’s seat of his car and other items related to the investigation were taken from his home, the sheriff said.

Sells and Robert Vaughn were friends and had been talking over the phone the evening of the murder, Graybeal said.

At the press conference, District Attorney Tony Clark said Tennessee authorities have not yet decided whether they will seek the death penalty, which is legal in Tennessee.

The Vaughns’ two children were in state custody following the death of their parents. In an interview last week, Robert Labbe, Howes Vaughn’s step-father, said that he and his wife Michelle, who live in Gorham, were planning to seek custody of the two children.

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