BLOOMINGTON — Tabitha Gee survived injuries that could have easily killed her or left her permanently disabled, a Peoria pediatrician testified Wednesday at the trial of the man accused of slaying the girl’s parents and three siblings in their Beason home.
Tabitha, now 7, was found alive by police and rushed to a Peoria hospital where neurosurgeons removed a portion of her skull to allow her traumatized brain to continue swelling.
That was Sept. 21, 2009.
Dr. Channing Petrak explained injuries depicted in graphic photos of the child after she arrived at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoira. Head trauma included a laceration that nearly severed the girl’s right ear, said Petrak.
A long jagged line on 3D radiology reports showed the skull fracture that sank into Tabitha’s brain. The missing portion of the child’s skull was replaced Oct. 8.
The life-threatening injuries likely were caused by blunt force trauma from a non-accidental event, said Petrak.
“In my opinion they were inflicted,” the doctors said of the injuries.
A broken bone in the child’s right hand was “mostly likely a defensive wound” the 3-year-old girl suffered as she tried to shield herself from the attack, said the doctor.
The doctor said she did not know if the child has recovered fully, but defense lawyer Dan Fultz said after the testimony that he and the state will have a statement for the jury indicating that the child is doing well.
One juror shook his head and closed his eyes when photos were displayed showing the child shortly after she arrived at the hospital.
The jury also heard testimony from a forensic scientist who examined two tires irons — one thought to be the murder weapon — and the lug nuts from the pickup truck Chris Harris was driving the night of the killings. State police forensic scientist Carolyn Kersting demonstrated for the jury how each tire iron was needed to accommodate the two sizes of lug nuts on Harris’ truck.
The tire iron that authorities say Harris wielded in the Gee home was found under a bridge several days after the deaths, and the second tool was picked up by police from a state evidence facility in January.
A blood stain investigator with the state police spent the afternoon on the witness stand answering questions about the blood patterns found throughout the Gee home.
Duane Morris testified that blood found on a sidewalk and porch outside the home was from a person with fresh wounds.
Illinois Assistant Attorney General Michael Atterberry pointed out that DNA tests have confirmed the blood belonged to 14-year-old victim Dillen Constant. The victim’s blood was smeared on walls of a hallway and in several other rooms, including in a pool near his parent’s bed where his body was located.
Jason Harris, the brother of Chris Harris, told police that Chris Harris characterized Dillen as “the hardest to kill” because he had a knife. Jason Harris also was charged with the murder but reached a plea deal in exchange for his testimony in his brother’s trial that will result in dismissal of the murder counts.
The state is expected to wrap up its case Thursday with a former Logan County inmate who reportedly talked to Harris about the pending murder case and a forensic pathologist who performed autopsies on the victims.
The defense said Chris Harris will testify, along with an expert on the impact of violent video games.