PEORIA — If words proved inadequate to describe the carnage present inside the Rick Gee home on Sept. 21, 2009, photos shown to jurors Thursday in the Chris Harris murder trial brought the full horror of it all home.
Harris and his brother Jason Harris are charged with murder in the death of Ruth and Rick Gee and their three children and the attempted murder of a fourth child, Tabitha, who survived.
Images of the head trauma suffered by 16-year old victim Justina Constant so repulsed one of the jurors that he covered his view of a screen depicting the photo and turned towards spectators, shaking his head, until the image was removed.
Similar graphic photos of Dillen Constant, 14, caused the victim’s father and stepmother to shield their eyes.
Michael Oyer, now director of the Central Illinois Police Training Center, offered a description of each of about 100 photos of the victims found in the blood-splattered crime scene. Before Oyer’s testimony, defense lawyer Daniel Fultz objected to the jury seeing the exceptionally gory photo of Justina.
Illinois Assistant Attorney General Michael Atterberry argued that “the nature and extent of wounds are relevant” for the jury to consider.
Judge Scott Drazewski agreed that the photo is grisly and gruesome and “may only be up as long as necessary during the witness’ testimony.”
Oyer explained the position and location of the victims and the trauma each suffered. Massive amounts of blood — “drips, splatter marks and smears” — were found throughout the home, he said.
Among the evidence collected by police were shoe impressions and a bloody palm print from the house that investigators claim they linked to Harris.
Not found in the Gee’s master bedroom was a laptop computer later found in Jason’s home. A bloodstained webcam normally linked to a computer was still in the bedroom, said Oyer.
So far, the state has called 13 of a list of 100 potential witnesses.
The trial’s steady pace can be attributed in part to the lack of cross-examination by the defense of most witnesses so far. Fultz said in opening remarks that his client admits being in the house but will claim self-defense in killing Dillen Constant, who he said was in the midst of murdering his family.
The state expects its case to take about two weeks, with Jason’s testimony anticipated next week. Oyer will continue his testimony Friday.