The Gee Family Murders

This is a case that I could spend days going over information that is available just on the Internet alone.  So much of it in the beginning focused on the trial of Christopher Harris that I was forced to look more into things than I normally would have to, and yet still there were issues that after hours of research I could not adequately resolve.  As you have heard me say many, many times, when I start looking at a case that has been resolved I always go in with the idea that the jury got it right but yet I keep an open mind at the evidence.  I admit that this case had me think for just a second or two if the defense theory was possible but my gut tells me that it was not and I listen to my gut quite often.  Then again, some of the information that made me question the verdict in the first place was evidence that had not been allowed at trial so the jury did not hear the few things that I questioned.  

On September 21, 2009 Raymond "Rick" Gee's stepfather went to his step-son's home in the small down of Beason Illinois and what he found was a house of horrors.  He found the body of his stepson Rick (46) laying in the hallway.  Rick's wife, Ruth (39), was laying dead in her room along with her sons, Dillen Constant (14) and Austin Gee (11) (some reports say Austin was only Rick's son but it appears he was born after Rick and Ruth's marriage in 1997).  In another room lay the body of Ruth's daughter, Justina Constant (16) and at some point daughter Tabitha (3) was found in a closet.  It was initially believed that Tabitha too was dead but after the police arrived they noticed movement coming from her.  She would survive her near death injury and apparently be raised by her grandmother, Judith Stogdell.

Beason is a very small town about 160 miles south west of the bustling, crime riddled city of Chicago. This small town only inhabited a couple hundred people and rarely saw crime.  People did not lock their doors and everyone seemed to know everyone else.  Things like this did not happen.  One thing I found rather surprising about this case is that despite so many other cases I have seen from very small areas there never seemed to be any allegations that the investigation was mishandled.  Often you will find that a police department that is not used to handling such a large crime, or much crime at all, lack the knowledge of just how to adequately handle a crime scene as well as collect evidence.  Since I saw no such allegations in this case I can only assume that the police not only gather all the evidence that they could, they collected and preserved it in an adequate manner.  

At any rate here in this tiny town stood a house that had five dead bodies inside and one little girl clinging to life.  Residents were in fear and the police did not help by reminding people to lock all their doors because they had few leads in the case.  Although as we all know most crimes are committed by people known to the victims it is likely that the residents of Beason could not imagine one of their own being involved.  Then again, "one of their own" could have been a relative term.  Small towns often only consider this term when it refers to people who were born and raised there or had spent decades living there. 

One of the first leads that investigators got from nearby neighbors was that a gray truck with what looked like a chrome exhaust was seen at the house about the time authorities theorized the murders occurred.  Aside from that it seems that none of the neighbors saw or heard anything.  Of course after gathering evidence at the scene and interviewing those in the area investigators moved on to family members.  With this much death there were not a lot left.  One of the most obvious places they would have started was with Rick's oldest daughter, Nichole who lived a few blocks away with her two young children.  Nichole had divorced her husband, Christopher Harris in 2006 but they had reconciled for a short period earlier in the year and had even had a child.  They had planned to re-marry but the relationship had ended once again just a few days before the Gee family was murdered.  Within two days of the murders investigators questioned Christopher, along with his brother Jason and Jason's girlfriend, Jennifer Earnest.  Jennifer's mother, Sara Duncan was visiting Jason and Jennifer from Florida at that time and she too was interviewed.

It would be 10 days after the murders before an arrest was made and many wondered why it took that long.  As I said, the first lead investigators had was for a gray truck with a chrome exhaust.  Christopher Harris owned just a such a unique looking truck and by all accounts for the next week, following the murders, that truck sat outside Nichole's home in plain sight.  Others would argue that although Christopher was obviously interviewed his brother, as well as Jennifer and her mother gave them an alibi for Christopher and that had to be checked against other evidence that was coming in before an arrest could be made.  At the point in which investigators claimed that a bloody palm print found inside the Gee's master bathroom that belonged to Christopher Harris they made their arrest.  Within a few days they had also arrested Jason Harris, his girlfriend and her mother.  

In the beginning, and apparently at his 2013 trial, Nichole defended Christopher.  She would claim on a MySpace status that the police were using him as a scapegoat and that her children, after already losing 5 members of their family were now losing their father.  I cannot say what Nichole's position is today.  There were some that questioned if Nichole was involved herself but that was quickly dismissed.  Social media and news articles pointed out that Nichole would have known the investigators were looking for a truck much like the one her ex-husband owned, but also was sitting outside her home.  I dismiss these claims because reports are that Christopher was interviewed within two days of the murders so who is to say they did not know or suspect by then.  

So initially in the beginning all they really had on Christopher was the palm print and the truck.  Within a few days they had also charged his brother Jason with murder, among other things and charged Jennifer and her mother, Sara, with obstructing justice.  Jason had staunchly defended his brother at the time he was arrested but it did not take long before Jason was out to cover his own butt. Defense attorney's would argue at Christopher's trial that not only did Jason change his story several times, he had a previous conviction for perjury and could not be trusted.  

Christopher went on trial in May of 2013.  The star prosecution witness was his brother Jason who told his version of what happened on the night just prior to the murders.  According to Jason, he and Christopher had been drinking on the night of September 20, 2009.  He claims that they also partook in cocaine and marijuana.  Jason says sometime near 1 am on the 21st they got into Christopher's truck and first headed to Nichole's house.  He said when they saw no lights on at her house Christopher mentioned Nichole's sixteen year old stepsister, Justina Constant who he claimed had made a pass at him previously and that he would like to see her.  They then headed over to the Gee home. (**I need to point out here that the reason for going there seems to be at question although this is the reasoning that the prosecution claimed.  Jason claimed this, then recanted, then stated again). Jason claimed that Christopher went into the home carrying a tire iron while he stayed outside.  He would testify that while Christopher was inside he heard a woman yell and heard several "thumping" sounds.  A while later Jason claims that Dillen Constant came out of a window and was followed by Christopher who was beating him with the tire iron.  At some point Dillen and Christopher both made it back inside while supposedly Jason just stood there.  Jason claimed that Christopher finally came out of the home carrying the tire iron and a laptop computer and got into the truck proclaiming that he had "killed them all" so there were no witnesses. 

It seems that Jason's story (or at least which ever one they chose to believe since there were a few over the next few years) was the basis for the prosecution theory.  Aside from the bloody hand print found inside the master bedroom that matched Christopher they had matched some blood stains in his truck to Rick Gee.  They also had evidence that alleged that after the murders Christopher bought new shoes in a size bigger than he generally wore on the premises that they would not match the size of any prints inside.  Jason testified that he had helped burn the clothes and shoes that Christopher wore the night of the murder as well as dispose of the tire iron and laptop that was taken.  

The defense had a whole other theory, and truthfully it could have made sense, at least some of it at one time.  Christopher admitted being at the the Gee home around the time of the murders but his story differed quite a bit from his brothers.  First, he never claimed to have gone over there for Justina.  His claim was that the brothers had gone to his former in-laws home in hopes of getting more marijuana.  Apparently it could be proven that the Gee's would have likely had some.  Christopher claims that when they got there, Jason stayed outside, just as Jason said he did.  However, Christopher claims that when he entered the house he saw Rick Gee laying face down in the hallway.  He said a tire iron was laying next to him.  He would say that after being startled at the scene he was confronted by Dillen Constant who had a knife and began attacking him. He said he picked up the tire iron to defend himself.  Just as Jason would claim the fight went out into the yard for a bit before ending inside the home.  Christopher would claim that the only person he killed was Dillen and that Dillen had killed the others.  

Of course on the surface this seems like such a lame story.  It is nothing new for a murderer to blame one of the victims as being the initial perpetrator.  The defense did have a little to back them up however but not everything they had was admitted into the trial.  Dillen did have some major issues it appears.  He had several incidents in his school over the last few years that had caused a lot of problems.  He had been in trouble from things such as fighting, slashing seats on a school bus and even once was quoted as saying "I can't wait until this stupid school blows up" after failing a test.  The defense had a "video game expert" testify that the games Dillen played were violent and "could have" contributed to his attitude (really??) but was forced to stop short of saying he had the mind set and ability to commit these crimes.  In 2007 Ruth had apparently told a therapist that Dillen was seeing that she feared he would hurt himself or someone else.  Around the same time Rick's mother, Judy, claims that Rick told her "if they didn't get Dillen under control they would all wake up dead one day."  Now, neither of these two statements were allowed to be entered into the trial considering they were more than two years before the murders.  It was something the defense would appeal on but the courts would uphold.  However, since they could not use those statements they used the school records and some of Dillen's medical doctors claiming that he had been diagnosed with at the very least ADD and had been prescribed medication but at the time of the murders was no longer taking it, and hadn't in some time.  

The Dillen angle may have worked had it not been for several other things.  The biggest thing that Christopher had to answer to was if his story was true that he walked in on Dillen killing the family and he then killed Dillen defending himself why did he not call the police?  Christopher would simply claim that he did not want to have to explain himself and that he had taken the laptop on the chance there was a camera for the same reason.  The other big question was why did he not look for and attempt to help three year old Tabitha?  While the community was obviously upset over the five murders themselves, the attack on a three year old who had struggled to survive was almost even harder to comprehend.  Christopher had no real answers for this.  

The defense had a few other things going for them, such as the fact that Christopher did not apparently have any wounds on his body after the murders. This was also something that Nichole had pointed out early on in her MySpace status.  At the very least it was common knowledge that Dillen had struggled but authorities would claim that all of the victims, including little Tabitha, had defense wounds indicating that they had fought for their lives.  In fact, the police had announced initially that they were looking for that gray truck with someone who had injuries.  The defense would argue that the house was very little and just the hallway that Rick Gee was found in was only three feet wide and that it would be nearly impossible to not have any injuries after killing him, let alone four other people and attacking another.  One other interesting thing that helped the defense was that apparently Rick Gee had DNA under his nail that belonged to Dillen and not Christopher.  The prosecution would point out that this was not uncommon since they lived in the home together and would attempt to argue that Dillen had no scratches on him.  Well I have to stick with the defense on that one.  There was no way to say that Dillen did not have any scratches on him because he had over 100 wounds to his body.  To say that the DNA under Rick's nail did not come from a struggle with Dillen was not something I feel the prosecution could adequately say.  The prosecution would ultimately have to admit that the things about Dillen's behavior that were allowed admitted into the trial were accurate but attempted to dismiss them as "horseplay" or "the acts of an immature boy looking for attention." Again, I have to disagree with them, despite the fact that some of the more damaging evidence about Dillen's behavior was not entered into the trial so the jury did not hear it, it does seem that Dillen had some major behavior issues.  Now, please do not take this as me taking the side of the defense or blaming Dillen for his own death because I am doing neither of those things.  I am simply stating that facts are facts.

In the end the jury did not believe the defense theory either and ultimately convicted Christopher.  He received a sentence that included 5 life terms for the murders, 20 years for armed robbery and 30 years for the attempted murder of Tabitha Gee.  At his sentencing Christopher apologized to the family for what they had been through but continued to maintain that aside from Dillen, who he claimed he killed in self defense, he killed none of the others.  Prosecutors would drop murder changes levied against Jason Harris and he accepted a plea deal that had required his testimony at his brother's trial.  He received a sentence of 20 years for the concealment of a homicide and obstruction of justice.  There was also a charge in there for the unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, likely pertaining to the admitted marijuana.  His first parole date is in 2019 with a projected release date in 2021.

So what exactly is my take on this.  Well, based simply on the fact that Christopher Harris admits to being in the home at the time, even admits killing Dillen Constant yet did not call the police to report anything tells me that he is guilty.  I am not sure that I believe Jason's ultimate story and I do agree with the defense that not only had he changed his stories several times but at the time of the incident he was on probation for perjury from lying in court in a drug case he was involved in.  Another thing that I did not mention earlier but that was a contention in court was Christopher's past.  He did have a record.  In 1999 he had been convicted of felony theft.  Prior to that he had a few things such as shoplifting, possession of marijuana and writing a bad check.  However from 1999 to 2009 aside from traffic tickets there was nothing else apparently.  But, the prosecution wanted to use his 2006 divorce as leverage to prove his violent history.  When Nichole filed for the divorce she claimed there was emotional and a few incidents of physical abuse but she was not specific.  She would later claim in her testimony in court that he had never abused her or her children in anyway.  I found this to be odd, just as the prosecution seemed to hound on it so I did a little research.  While obviously I was not there, nor do I personally know any of these participants... what I can say is that to get a "no fault divorce" in Illinois is apparently not impossible but not very easy and requires a lot more hoops to jump through.  So, while I cannot state for sure, it is possible that the abuse alleged to in the divorce filing may not have happened and was simply put there to obtain a quicker and easier divorce.  I saw nothing that indicated there had been any police runs to the house or any charges ever brought against him for any kind of domestic violence.  

If Christopher Harris would have called the police from the Gee home on the night of the murders, whether he committed them all or just killed Dillen as he stated in court it is possible that he would have gotten off and quite honestly I may have believed him whether it was true or not.  The fact that he left the home and did not tell anyone, beyond his brother who was there, and in my opinion may have participated, that he was even at the home was his down fall. And while I do think that the defense theory that Dillen Constant was the actual killer could have been possible at that point in the game, the fact that this man did in fact not only murder five people but beat a three year old child to the brink of death (to which I am sure he was certain she was dead also) and then blames one of the victims is a great tragedy.  Not only did he take the lives of five innocent people, he took most of the relatives belonging to the two surviving family members, one of which was his ex wife and mother of his children. He also then in turn by committing the crimes took his own children's father from them.  

Christopher Harris deserves to be where he is today in an Illinois prison with no possible parole.


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