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Harris Guilty of First-Degree Murder
It's the day Beason residents have been waiting for for nearly four years. Today, they--and the rest of central Illinois--learned Christopher Harris will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the murders of five members of a Beason family in 2009.
Jurors found Harris guilty of first-degree murder for the brutal killings of Rick and Ruth Gee and their three children.
Today, family members of the victims handed our reporter a picture of 14-year-old Dillen Constant, one of the victims killed. Prosecutors said today's verdict is justice and vindication for the young man.
The words of juror Seth Jones describe the emotion in a Peoria County courtroom during the month-long trial.
"It was awful," Jones said. "I never want to have to see anything like that again."
While considering the testimony from dozens of witnesses, Jones said he couldn't get past the DNA police found at the crime scene, including shoe prints and a palm print matching Harris'.
"I was looking for anything I could, because I looked at him and thought, 'He seems like a normal guy,'" Jones said. "I can't fathom anyone doing anything like that."
Harris told jurors he walked in on Dillen Constant, 14, killing his own family, then killed the teen in self-defense.
Prosecutors said the verdict clears his name.
"It's emotional," Logan County State's Attorney Jonathon Wright said. "It's emotional for the family. It's emotional to know Dillen was vindicated. It's emotional to know justice was done."
Defense attorney Dan Fultz said he knew the case would be tough from the start.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the jury," Fultz said. "They went in, gave up their time, looked at the evidence, and reached a verdict. And we live with it."
The courtroom was packed but silent.
Jurors didn't look up at Harris as the foreman read "guilty" in each charge.
"I didn't want to look up at his face, because I still feel terrible," Jones said. "I have to send a man to prison for life."
Harris looked down while the verdict was read. His lawyer said the verdict hit him "like a ton of bricks." They hugged prosecutors and one juror on the way out.
Defense attorney William Vig joined us in the ABC Newschannel 20 studio this evening. He's been following the case with us. Hear his thoughts on the verdict in the video above.