The Gee family, Rick 46, Ruth 39, Justina 16, Dillen 14, and Austin 11 were found bludgeoned to death in their Beason Illinois home. Tabitha, 3, was severely beaten but found alive and unconscious on her bedroom floor. Christopher Harris, 34, the estranged husband of the oldest Gee sibling, Nicole, was found guilty of the deaths of the Gee family.
The Gee Family
Raymond “Rick” Gee and Ruth Constant married in 1997 and had settled in the small farming town of Beason, Illinois, population 250, just northeast of Springfield, Illinois. They each had brought children into the relationship, which created a large, blended family. Rick was the biological father to Nicole, while Ruth was the biological mother to Justina and Dillen. The couple had Austin and Tabitha together, Rick was a contractor and handyman, while Ruth was a stay-at-home mother. Their oldest daughter, Nicole, had married a local man named Christopher Harris. The couple had two children. Their strained marriage had caused them to divorce, yet they had attempted reconciliation several times over the years.
September 21, 2009
On September 21, 2009, Seaton Landstrom, 10, went to the Gee Family House to show Dillen and Austin his new bike. When he arrived at the home, he immediately noticed something was not right. The front door was slightly opened, so he called out to the family but received no answer. He noticed what appeared to be blood on the front porch. Landstrom quickly rode his bicycle to the oldest daughter’s home, less than a mile away, where he encountered William and Adam Koehler. William was Rick Gee’s stepfather. After Landstrom explained what he saw, the Koehlers drove to the Gee residence, where they discovered the Gee family bludgeoned to death. They immediately dialed 9-1-1. Emergency services arrived on scene within a few minutes.
Rick was found lying face down on the living room floor with various blood pooling and blood cast off on the ceiling, floors, and walls. He had been struck in the head more than 13 times.
Ruth was found in the couple’s bedroom, also having been struck 13 times, and with such force that it collapsed her skull over her right eye.
Dillen was laying in the doorway to a bedroom; he had been struck more than 30 times.
Austin was found in the bathroom, where he had been struck 8 times; having both sides of his skull caved in.
Tabitha had been found on her bedroom floor and had been struck in the head 2 times. The skin above her right ear had been peeled back.
As Logan County sheriff’s corporal Michael Block and Illinois State Trooper Paul Hennessy swept the home, they discovered that the Gee’s computer was missing. Block noticed movement from Tabitha and yelled for paramedics. The paramedic did not waste a second as he cradled Tabitha to his chest and made his way to the awaiting ambulance. They took her to the nearest hospital where she was then life flighted to a trauma 1 hospital in Peoria, IL. A doctor determined she had multiple skull fractures with brain swelling. She could not speak and because of the swelling from injuries to her face, she could not see; Tabitha could move her arm. Doctors would end up removing a few small pieces of her skull (for healing purposes) due to brain swelling.
Investigators discovered a bloody handprint on the vanity in the bathroom where Austin had been killed. They also discovered a fresh undisturbed shoe print outside, which they matched to a K-Swiss tennis shoe with aggressive tread. Officers canvassed the small community. Police received tips which they followed up on immediately. One neighbor stated he had witnessed a silver pick up driving past his house at around the approximate time of the murders. He had described it as silver with exhaust pipes that came up through the bed of the truck, directly behind the cab. Police did not discover any further clues.
A random encounter at the hospital where Tabitha was being treated was what offered a big break. Police kept Tabitha under guard as a precaution, to ensure her safety because she had survived the attack. An officer was coming off of shift at the same time that Christopher Harris had left Tabitha’s room. Nicole, his estranged wife, had not left Tabitha’s bedside since her arrival. As Harris and the officer were riding the elevator, the officer noticed Harris’ shoes as being K-Swiss with aggressive tread.
The officer notified detectives of his observation. This prompted detectives to call Harris in for questioning. They took a print of his shoe tread and determined that the shoe was a half size too big. They also took fingerprints and palm prints which were sent to the crime lab for analysis. Harris’ brother, Jason Harris, had offered the alibi, stating that they were out together, but not anywhere near Beason.
The Evidence and Confession
When the evidence came back, it positively identified the handprint from the bathroom as belonging to Christopher Harris. Investigators arrested Christopher Harris and Jason Harris in the murders of the Gee family. Initially, Nicole defended Harris’s innocence because she never believed that he would be capable of such violence. She would later change her mind under the insurmountable evidence. In exchange for a lesser sentence, Jason Harris turned state’s witness against his brother and offered the following account.
Harris stated that he and his brother, Christopher, had been out partying. Christopher had snorted cocaine. The pair had been drinking and driving around. Christopher wanted to speak to Justina, so the pair drove to the Gee house. When Christopher got out of the pickup, he grabbed a tire iron and walked into the house. Jason stated he stayed in the pickup the entire time. Jason heard multiple loud thumps and screams coming from inside of the house. He witnessed Dillen dive out of a bedroom window, then make his way to the front door where he re-entered the home. Dillen came running back out of the house, bleeding profusely, with Christopher Harris following behind him. Jason witnessed his brother strike Dillen 5-6 times with the tire iron before going back into the house. Surprisingly, Dillen got to his feet and went back inside the home. A few short minutes later, Harris exited the home and got into the pickup. As they drove down the rural road, Harris threw his shoes and the tire iron out of the window.
Prosecutors noted that there had been an attempted sexual assault complaint against Christopher Harris regarding Justina, but it had been dropped a week prior. Jason stated Christopher had gone to the Gee house for sexual motives, which did not happen.
Investigators executed a search warrant on Jason Harris’s house, which was also where Christopher had been staying since separating from his wife, Nicole. They noticed Harris’s pickup in the driveway, which matched the witnesses’ description. It did not have exhaust pipes in the bed, but investigators discovered a weight rack behind a shed that had been newly placed there. It would give the illusion of exhaust pipes. This was later confirmed. In the pickup’s bed, investigators located the Gee’s missing computer, hidden underneath a tarp.
Investigators also drove the route that Jason Harris had described. The K-Swiss shoes and tire iron were discovered beyond the roadside ditch. Forensics discovered a DNA match belonging to the Gee family and Christopher Harris.
On May 31, 2013, a jury convicted Christopher Harris of the murders of the Gee family. The official press release by the Illinois Attorney General’s office can be found here. Harris’s sentencing took place on July 19, 2013. He was sentenced to five consecutive terms of natural life, 30 years for the attempted murder of Tabitha, 30 years for home invasion and 20-years for robbery.
In a plea deal reached with Logan County State’s Attorney Jonathan Wright, Jason Harris received a ten-year sentence for concealment of homicide, obstruction of justice and unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.
Christopher Harris’s legal team attempted to introduce the theory that he had interrupted Dillen in the middle of the murders and had killed Dillen in self-defense. This theory was dismissed. In 2013, shortly before his sentencing, Christopher Harris and his legal team attempted to petition for a re-trial. Their efforts were denied. In 2019, an appeal was filed with the Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District. The appeal was denied. A transcript of the proceedings can be found here.
An update given by media sources reported that Tabitha made a full recovery. She was admitted into foster care just before her fourth birthday. While in foster care, Tabitha underwent counseling and was adopted to a loving and supportive family.
In 2014, the Gee family sought the assistance of the Beason Fire Department. With the approval of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, ten members of the Beason Fire Department burned the Gee home to the ground.