Tim Vaughn had a lot on his mind last October when he sat down in the barber's chair at Vic's Barber Shop in Imperial Beach.
Vaughn, 33, is a U.S. Navy petty officer who worked as a medic. He was up for a promotion to chief after 16 years in the service. His wife was ten weeks pregnant and he was looking forward to being the shoulder she could lean on for the baby they were excited about.
Vaughn didn't know the barber, Daniel Roberto Flores, who was the only other person in the shop. When Flores insisted on trimming Vaughn's beard with a straight razor, the Navy man cooperated and tipped his head back. That's when Flores said: “I could cut your throat.” And then Flores did — leaving two slashes across Vaughn's throat. Then Flores left the shop and rode away on his bicycle.
"I felt this incredible pain,” said Vaughn in court on Thursday (June 11). “There was so much blood. 'Where is everyone?' I put pressure on it. It hurt so much. I felt this huge hole. 'Somebody help me.' There's blood all over my shirt, all over the floor. 'Somebody please help me.' I guess my training kicked in."
Though he lost a lot of blood, Vaughn knew to position himself so blood would continue to go to his heart and his brain, and to make himself stay conscious. Police said he saved his own life.
Vaughn came to court for Flores's sentencing on the attempted murder charge the 22-year-old pled guilty to. Vaughn wore his neatly pressed Navy uniform — as did nearly a dozen of his colleagues who came to support him.
"There would be more but our ship deployed," an officer said.
Vaughn described himself as undeployable and talked about how he fears for the loss of his career. After the attack, he didn't get the promotion to chief. He has spent the past seven months learning to turn his head and waiting for the feeling in his neck to return, he told the judge.
After hundreds of hours of physical therapy, surgical repairs, and psychiatric help, he remains undeployable. In today's Navy, that's a career-ender.
"My heart [hurts] most for my family because they are the true victims," Vaughn said. "I survived a gruesome, heinous attack.... Instead of being a shoulder for my wife to lean on, I get to go home and have my family babysit me, wash me and feed me and deal with my — my pain, anxiety, nightmares, sleepless nights."
Throughout the recounting, Flores appeared bored. No one knows why he nearly killed Vaughn. Police said they had no prior relationship and there wasn't an argument.
Judge Garry Haehnle noted that both psychiatrists who examined Flores found "hints of mental illness" but nothing acute and nothing that would have triggered such an attack.
"He had no audio or visual hallucinations, no self-defense issues," Haehnle said. "He just doesn't remember."
Flores didn't speak — his attorney explained that Flores "was going through some difficult times with psychiatric issues…. He is extremely remorseful and sorry for what he did."
But Vaughn's mom, Kathleen Dye, wasn't buying it.
"My son looks in the mirror every single day and he sees a scar from ear to ear," Dye said. "For what reason? We still don't know."
Although the probation report recommended a sentence of eight years because Flores has no prior convictions, Judge Haehnle went for the maximum of ten years — which brought sobs from Flores’s wife, who was there with his mother and three siblings.
"Mr. Vaughn trusted this man to do what a barber would do," Haehnle said. "I know Mr. Vaughn suffered tremendously and still suffers to this day."