LINCOLN - A Beason family found slain in their home Sept. 21 may have died during an armed robbery in which a laptop computer was taken by two Armington brothers -- one of them a former son-in-law of one of the victims -- according to indictments filed Wednesday.
Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children died of blunt force trauma, likely caused by a tire iron, prosecutors disclosed in newly filed charges.
Christopher J. Harris, 30, and his brother, Jason L. Harris, 22, each were arraigned on more than 50 first-degree murder counts and additional charges of armed robbery, home invasion, residential burglary and the attempted criminal sexual assault of 16-year-old victim Justina Constant. Chris Harris, who was once married to Rick Gee's older daughter, Nicole, faces a total of 68 charges.
Jason L. Harris faces the same charges plus three counts of obstructing justice that say he burned his brother's clothing, concealed a laptop computer and lied about where he and Chris Harris were in the early morning hours of Sept. 21.
Both brothers pleaded not guilty to killing the Gees and their children, Justina Constant, Dillen Constant, 14, and Austin Gee, 11.
The hearing was the first time prosecutors have disclosed the weapon used to inflict the head injuries that killed the five victims and caused serious injuries to Tabitha Gee, the couple's 3-year-old daughter, who survived the attacks. Searchers combed farm fields near the Gee home after the deaths looking for a cylinder-shaped object, a sharp-edged tool and a laptop computer, The Pantagraph has learned.
Some of the charges relate to the computer the brothers are accused of taking from the Gee family's home.
Building defense teams
Judge Thomas Harris appointed James Elmore and Matthew Maurer to assist public defender Tim Timoney with Chris Harris' case. The judge also approved an additional counsel to work with Jason Harris' lawyer, Steve Skelton, but Skelton said he is waiting to hear if the second attorney is available.
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Authorities said there is an unusually high number of counts in the indictment because the charge allege crimes being committed during other alleged criminal acts, all involving multiple victims.
After the hearing, Skelton addressed the large number of charges. "It's a record, across the board," he said.
He said he expects the state to seek the death penalty against the pair.
The judge explained the possible penalties to each defendant during their 15-minute hearings at the Logan County Courthouse. The multiple murder counts relate to the fact that each victim allegedly was killed during the commission of additional offenses.
The punishment on the murder counts ranges from 20 years to life in prison or the death penalty.
Many of the remaining counts carry prison terms of six to 30 years.
A Dec. 3 pretrial hearing is scheduled but it is unlikely a trial will follow in December, given the complexity of the case.
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday for Jennifer Earnest, Jason Harris' girlfriend who is charged with giving a false alibi for Chris Harris. She has asked that her bond requiring her to post $5,000 be reduced.
Her mother, Sara Duncan, posted $5,000 last week to be released on similar obstruction charges.