PEORIA — A former state crime scene technician started what is scheduled to be lengthy testimony Thursday morning regarding a massive amount of evidence in the Chris Harris murder trial.
Michael Oyer, now director of the Central Illinois Police Training Center, identified the first of about 100 photos related to blood and other evidence taken from the Gee family house in Beason.
Before Oyer's testimony, defense lawyer Daniel Fultz objected to the jury seeing an exceptionally gory photo of the head trauma of victim Justina Constant, 16.
Prosecutor Michael Atterberry countered that "the nature and extent of wounds are relevant" for the jury to consider.
Judge Scott Drazewski ruled the photo is grisly and gruesome and "may only be up as long as necessary during the witness' testimony."
Testimony from crime scene officers is expected to continue Thursday afternoon.
In the morning, the jury heard a Logan County paramedic's emotional account of his involvement in the discovery of Tabitha Gee, the lone survivor in the mass slayings.
Lincoln Rural Fire Chief Chad Litterle paused during questioning by prosecutor Jonathan Wright, his voice breaking, as he recalled picking up the severely injured 3-year-old.
"I picked her up and carried her back out the way I came, the exact path I came in, and into the ambulance," said Litterle, wiping away a tear.
Tabitha suffered a massive head injury and trauma to her ear, he said.
Litterle was the first witness of the day in the ongoing murder trial of Chris Harris, 34, who is charged with injuring Tabitha and killing other members of her family, including Rick and Ruth Gee, and their children, Justina Constant, 16, Dillen Constant, 14, and Austin Gee, 11.
Litterle's testimony mirrored that given Wednesday by Illinois State trooper Paul Hennessy, who told jurors he and a Logan County Sheriff's Department officer went from room to room in the house, searching for any sign of life.
Hennessy and Cpl. Michael Block with the Logan County Sheriff’s Department were going room to room, checking for any signs of life and surveying the carnage in almost every room of the small house on the north edge of Beason.
The officers stepped over bodies, walking carefully to avoid walking in the pools and droplets of blood visible on nearly every surface. A small child’s body was counted initially among the dead by officers as she lay in a doorway to one of the bedrooms.
“I saw an open door to a bedroom and a small child crossways in the doorway. Corporal Block said ‘I think she moved,’” said Hennessy.
Hennessy left the room where Justina Constant was found with her badly beaten head leaning over the edge of her bed and went back to Tabitha.
“I kneeled down by her. She had a lot of trauma to her head. I said “Honey, are you ok? Can you hear me? And she groaned,” Hennessy told the jury.
Her life-threatening injuries included skull fractures that required removal of a portion of her brain. Tabitha has recovered and lives with her grandmother in Lincoln.