LINCOLN, Ill. (AP) — A man convicted of beating five members of his ex-wife’s family to death in their small-town Illinois home was sentenced Friday to five consecutive life terms.
Christopher Harris, 34, was convicted in May after a monthlong trial. Harris admitted killing Dillen Constant, but claimed he did so in self-defense after discovering the 14-year-old boy slaughtering his own family. Harris reiterated his innocence on Friday when making a brief statement before being sentenced.
“I made a lot of stupid, stupid decisions that night but I did not commit this crime, and that’s all I have to say,” he said, according to the Peoria Journal Star, which reported that Harris spoke for about one minute.
But Judge Scott Drazewski, who before the sentencing denied Harris’ motion for a new trial, not only imposed the five consecutive life sentences, but added a total of 80 years in prison for first-degree murder, armed robbery and home invasion.
Because of the charges, the only sentence that the judge could have imposed was life in prison. But there was drama in the sweltering courtroom.
“I am 7 and it still breaks my heart and I wish you were dead and my brothers and sister and Mommy and Daddy were alive,” Tabitha Gee, who was 3 years old when she was beaten and survived the attack, said through a statement that was read in court, according to The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.
Harris’ ex-wife, Nicole Gee, stated in a letter that was read in court that she had changed the name of Harris’ son, who was born a short time before the killings, and vowed that she would never tell Harris what the boy’s name is, according to the Peoria newspaper.
During the trial, Harris’ own brother testified against him, describing the sickening sound as Harris pummeled his former mother-in-law and her family with a tire iron.
Ruth and Raymond “Rick” Gee and their three children were killed Sept. 21, 2009, at their home in Beason, 40 miles northeast of Springfield.
Nicole Gee, who was once married to Harris, is Rick Gee’s adult daughter. She and Harris had recently reconciled, but broke up again just days before the gruesome deaths.
Harris did not dispute that he and his brother, Jason Harris, drank, smoked marijuana and used cocaine during a long night that ended with the slayings. He testified that the two went to the Gees’ home to buy more marijuana.
Harris said when he walked into the house he saw 46-year-old Rick, 39-year-old Ruth and 11-year-old Austin Gee all badly hurt or dead. He said he then fought Dillen.
But Jason Harris testified that he believed they went to the family’s home that night because his brother wanted to have sex with Ruth Gee’s 16-year-old daughter, Justina Constant.
Jason Harris, now 25, testified that he stayed outside the house but said he heard a woman scream — like something from “a horror film” — and thuds like the sound of a bowling ball hitting the floor.
He said he saw his brother hit Dillen with the tire iron and that his sibling admitted he’d killed the rest of the family, saying: “I (messed) up. I killed them all.”