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Attorney: Beason murder cases likely won't be combined

Beason slayings

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Jason L. Harris, 22, of Armington, is led out of the Logan County courthouse in Lincoln onTuesday afternoon. Harris appeared with his court-appointed attorney, Steve Skelton. (The Pantagraph/STEVE SMEDLEY)
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LINCOLN -- One of two brothers accused of brutally killing a Beason family was in court Tuesday for a brief appearance, and his attorney said the brothers' cases will most likely not be combined.

Jason L. Harris, 22, and Christopher J. Harris, 30, both of Armington, are charged with five counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the deaths of Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children. A fourth child, 3-year-old Tabitha Gee, survived the attack.

Jason Harris appeared before Logan County Judge Thomas Harris (no relation) on Tuesday with his court-appointed defense attorney, Steve Skelton, of Bloomington.

Before the hearing, Skelton spoke to the Harris brothers' father, Ed, outside the courtroom. Jason Harris, who was shackled at the wrists and ankles, did not speak during the actual hearing.

Skelton, who has spoken to Jason Harris for about six hours, said the two murder cases involving the brothers would likely stay separate. "It's almost a foregone conclusion that if there is a trial they will be separate," he said.

Both brothers are jailed without bond. They are both due in court Oct. 28 for preliminary hearings.

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Meanwhile, records that were subpoenaed in the criminal case against Chris Harris were due back to authorities at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Records were subpoenaed from Dr. John Warner Hospital in Clinton, Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular, according to the circuit clerk's online court information.

On Sept. 26, five days after the bodies were found and before the arrests, Logan County Sheriff Steve Nichols said the person or persons responsible may have suffered injuries in the "violent struggle" that took place in the Gee home.

Nichols said it was possible the injured person may not have sought medical attention.

Calls to the hospital and the Illinois attorney general's office for comment were not returned.

Chris Harris is the ex-husband of Nicole Gee, Rick's surviving older daughter. He had been living with his brother in Armington in the days before the slayings. Police say they have identified a motive but have not disclosed it.

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