SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy. High: 36. Winds: Light South.SATURDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Low: 32. Winds: South 5-10 mph.SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy and mild. High: 43. Winds: South 10-15 mph.Joe CrainStorm ...more »
Jason Harris Testifies About Involvement in Murders
It's one brother's word against the other in the trial of the man charged with killing five members of one family in their Beason home.
Christopher Harris' younger brother told the jury today that he watched and heard his brother beat the Gee family to death in 2009, and admitted he helped him try to cover up the crime.
Jason Harris said a night of drinking, drugs, and unsuccessfully seeking out three ex-girlfriends ended with a trip to the Gee house in Beason. His brother, Christopher Harris, is charged with killing Rick and Ruth Gee and their children: 16-year-old Justina, 14-year-old Dillen, and 11-year-old Austin.
Jason Harris said his brother wanted to talk to Justina, who hit on him a few times. Jason Harris testified to watching his brother walk into the house with a tire iron.
A few minutes later, he said he heard a loud thud "like a bowling ball dropping" and a woman scream. He didn't go inside, but hid. He said the 14-year-old victim called out Jason's name, but he didn't answer.
Jason Harris said his brother admitted to messing up and killing the whole family. He said Christopher Harris "hoped none of them woke up to point the finger at him."
Jason Harris said Christopher Harris later visited the sole survivor, a 3-year-old girl, in the hospital. Jason Harris said Christopher Harris was worried she'd be able to point him out.
"One of the key things about a cooperating witness or co-defendent is that they're gaining a lot as a result of their agreement to testify against somebody else," Springfield attorney William Vig said. "And it's entirely appropriate for the defense to bring up the fact that they have an agreement or concessions from the prosecution--that they are getting a better deal as a result of testifying than they would have had otherwise."
Jason Harris struck a deal with prosecutors to testify in exchange for a lesser sentence of 20 years in prison. His brother could face life in prison if convicted.
Jason Harris testified the pair took back roads out of town. Chris Harris threw the tire iron, a pair of shoes, and the Gees' computer card off a bridge in rural Tazewell County, and Jason Harris helped him burn his clothes.
Jason Harris testified he later recovered the laptop his brother threw into a cornfield and moved his pickup truck into a garage to get it out of view.
Christopher Harris looked down most of the time his brother was on the stand. The defense tried to poke holes in Jason's story, asking why he didn't call police or question his brother's actions sooner.
Jason Harris Testifies in Brother's Trial (5 p.m. May 15)