PEORIA — Scientific tests on fingernail scrapings taken from murder victim Rick Gee found the DNA of his slain stepson, a forensic scientist testified Tuesday — a finding that Chris Harris’ defense lawyers say supports their case.
Harris is accused of the September 2009 beating deaths of Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children and the attempted murder of Tabitha Gee, a fourth child who survived, in their Beason home.
Illinois State Police forensic scientist Jennifer Aper testified that DNA extracted from bloody material found under Rick Gee’s fingernails most likely belonged to 14-year-old Dillen Constant. Harris has claimed he killed Dillen in self-defense after he walked in on the youth slaughtering the Gees.
Aper and defense lawyer Daniel Fultz became involved in a brief dance of semantics over the meaning of the word “match” during his cross-examination on the DNA results.
The opinion on Dillen’s DNA is based upon a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, but usage of the phrase “exact match” is inaccurate, said the scientist.
“You’re misusing identity,” she told Fultz, who continued to press her about the 80 or so tests that produced only one result that linked Harris to the crime scene. Neither the family members nor Harris could be excluded from the potential DNA profiles on the steering wheel of Harris’ pickup truck, said Aper.
From the tests on the large amounts of blood spatter found throughout the house it’s apparent that the victims likely moved or were moved after they were initially struck with a tire iron. Blood linked to Justina Constant, 16, was in her younger sister’s closet but Justina’s body was found lying in her bed, her head severely injured.
Tabitha was found in a doorway to her parent’s bedroom, barely conscious and clinging to life as a result of head wounds.
Dillen Constant’s blood was found on the porch and sidewalk near a bloody knife and smeared along the walls of a hallway inside. He was found in a bathroom.
Harris was not found to be a contributor to the DNA collected inside the house, said Aper.
On Tuesday morning, jurors saw a video of Harris’ Oct. 1, 2009, interrogation. Harris, who was once married to Rick Gee’s daughter, Nicole, cried when confronted by police with his bloody palm print collected from inside the home.
“It can’t be mine. That’s impossible. I didn’t kill anybody,” Harris told investigators during an hourlong interview that ended with his arrest.
The suspect could not come up with an explanation for his palm print being in the home.
“You guys have the wrong guy. I wouldn’t kill my family,” Harris told former Illinois State Police Special Agent Mike Jennings.
In a discussion with Judge Scott Drazewski on how long the trial may last, lawyers indicated that the state may rest its case Thursday and the defense may begin its evidence Friday.
After the Memorial Day weekend, the defense will take another two or so days. Closing arguments could come late next week for the trial that opened April 19.