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Saturday, May 18, 2013 03:08 pm

A booty call after a blood bath

Harris acted normally after slaughter

Christopher Harris may or may not have beaten the Gee family to death with a tire iron.

But the sight of blood and battered bodies didn’t interfere with his libido.

Harris, who says he walked in on a massacre, hooked up with an on-again-off-again girlfriend hours after the slayings. He had no marks on his body save a fresh blister on his right hand, testified Kristy Moore, who was in a position to know, given that she saw him naked during the day after sending her two children off to school, then calling the defendant. It was a dead-end relationship, and she knew it – when Harris had called her the night before, she knew what he was after.

“I just wanted sex as well,” she testified on Friday.

When Harris drove to Clinton to meet Moore, he was less than 12 hours removed from a scene of stomach-turning violence. Photographs of bodies, blood and splattered brain matter introduced earlier during the trial moved one juror to tears. Another covered his eyes with a hand and looked away.

If anything, the pictures that jurors saw on Friday were even more chilling.

After the sex was over, Moore used her cell phone to snap photos of herself and the defendant. The jurors saw more than a half-dozen shots of the alleged murderer and Moore kissing, nuzzling cheek-to-cheek and making puppy-dog eyes at each other. Harris is smiling and appears completely at ease.

“Did you notice anything at all different about the way the defendant was acting on Sept. 21 of 2009?” asked assistant attorney general Michael Atterberry.

“He looked the same, like normal, except I hadn’t seen him for two months,” Moore answered.

Whether he murdered anyone or not, Harris had seen the carnage, seen the blood, seen the same things that jurors could barely stomach. He admits killing Dillen Constant, 14, but says that he acted in self defense after dropping by the Gee home unexpectedly after the teen killed his family, then tried to kill him. Harris, who did not call police, was arrested ten days later.

In addition to Constant, Justina Constant, his 16-year-old sister, and Austin Gee, his 11-year-old half-brother, were bludgeoned to death. Ruth and Raymond “Rick” Gee, Dillen’s mother and stepfather, also perished. Tabitha Gee, Ruth and Rick’s three-year-old daughter, was left for dead but somehow survived two tire iron blows to her head.

A strange encounter

Jurors on Friday also heard from a woman who had an unexpected late-night visitor on the night that the Gees died.

Lori Kuehl, who wore a blue security guard uniform during her testimony, was getting ready for bed at her home in the tiny town of Lawndale when she heard a knock on her door. It was 11:35 p.m. – she checked her watch.

“I opened up the door and I’m like, ‘Yeah?’” Kuehl said.
A stranger was on her porch.

“’I came over here to party,’” the man said. 

Peering out her door, Kuehl saw the front end of a Ford Ranger pickup truck. She knew the make and model because she had owned one herself.

“And I looked at him and said ‘I’m an armed security guard and I’m getting ready to go to bed,’” Kuehl said. “I had to tell him three times. … In a small rural community at 11:35 at night, you don’t expect people to be knocking on your door asking if you want to party.”

The man said that he knew her from the Lawndale Tap, a watering hole four blocks away that Kuehl hadn’t visited for 20 years or so. He was persistent.

“He kind of looked at me and said, ‘Oh, come on – don’t you want to do a line?’” Kuehl recalled. “I said, ‘Sir, I’m an armed security guard. I need to go to bed so I can get up and go to work tomorrow. Just the way he was acting and stuff, I figured he’d already been partying.”

During cross examination, defense attorney Daniel Fultz suggested that Jason Harris, the defendant’s younger brother, was the man who had come to Kuehl’s door. Under questioning by Fultz, Kuehl acknowledged that she had told police that the man had short blonde hair and had been wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans. Just last month, she picked the defendant out of a photo lineup at the Logan County sheriff’s department.

The jurors haven’t heard what Jason Harris was wearing that night, but the defendant was wearing a red shirt and black jeans, not a white shirt and blue jeans. He is also nine years younger than the defendant, who was 30 when the Gees died.

“Are you aware they never showed you a photograph of Jason Harris?” Fultz asked. “Do you think it was odd that they didn’t show you a photo of both people who may have been in the truck that night?”

It could prove an important detail.

Jason Harris had previously testified that he stayed in the truck while the defendant went to the woman’s door. Under terms of a deal with prosecutors, Jason Harris, who had been charged with murder, had to tell the truth while on the stand or lose the chance to plead guilty to lesser charges that come with a 20-year sentence and freedom in slightly more than six years with time off for good behavior.

Given a prior conviction for perjury and his admission that he told so many lies to investigators that he could not remember what he said, Jason Harris, who says that his brother killed the Gees, was a shaky witness from the start. If jurors believe he lied on the stand about something so inconsequential as who went to Kuehl’s door, what other parts of Jason Harris’ testimony might they dismiss?

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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