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Tennessee murder case has local ties

Couple accused of overloading 5-year-old with grape soda

A Tennessee couple accused of causing the death of their 5-year-old child in 2012 have local connections.

The 2-year-old case is getting extra attention because of how their daughter died: by being made to drink huge amounts of grape soda and water as punishment.

Last month, Randall Lee Vaughn, 41, and Mary Lavonne Vaughn, 58, of Surgoinsville, Tenn., were charged with first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated child neglect, and aggravated child abuse.

Alexa Rae Linboom, a kindergartner, died Jan. 3, 2012.

Randall Vaughn was her biological father; Mary Vaughn was her stepmother.

Mary Vaughn is believed to have lived in Ogle County some years ago. The girl's biological mother is Katie Linboom of Rock Falls, according to an obituary that appeared in Sauk Valley Media shortly after the girl's death in 2012.

The obituary didn't include Randall or Mary Vaughn's name. A funeral was held in Sterling about a week later; the child was buried in Surgoinsville, a small town in northeastern Tennessee.

Mary Vaughn had no brushes with the law in Ogle County, according to the county's online court records.

District Attorney General Berkeley Bell told the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News that the Vaughns forced the child to drink 12-ounce bottles of grape soda, maybe four or more, and an unknown amount of water.

"They also failed to take care of the child once she was injured," Bell told the newspaper. "Our position is it was a matter of several hours after the child started exhibiting serious symptoms, after the child was screaming out in pain, went into a paralyzed state, and became unconscious."

On Jan. 1, 2012, the Hawkins County, Tenn., sheriff's office was notified that Linboom had been brought to the Hawkins County Memorial Hospital emergency room, the Times-News reported. She was then airlifted to Niswonger Children's Hospital in Johnson City, where she died 2 days later.

After a 2-year investigation, authorities determined that Linboom died because of acute fluid-water intoxication.

The excess fluids "led to her brain swelling and all of her systems shutting down, and to her eventual brain death," Bell told the Times-News. “The punishment was allegedly for stealing a grape drink."

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