PEORIA — In December — three years and two months after his last interrogation about the Gee family deaths — Jason Harris recanted his claim that his brother was looking for sex with a teenage girl when he entered the family’s Beason home.
The disclosure about the December meeting came during Jason Harris’ second day of testimony in the murder trial of Chris Harris, who is charged with killing Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children in September 2009. A fourth child was critically injured but recovered.
Jason Harris told police in December that he was taking back the rape allegation involving victim Justina Constant, 16, but not his assertion that his brother said he was going into the house “to talk to Justina.” Transcripts read in court indicated that when detectives asked him why he made such an accusation, Jason Harris said, “I was just telling you what you wanted to hear.”
Prosecutors then dropped attempted sexual assault charges against Chris Harris.
Authorities were preparing Jason Harris for his testimony in his brother’s trial when he withdrew the allegation.
Earlier this month, Jason Harris signed a plea agreement with the state that dismisses more than 50 murder counts and other charges against him in exchange for his testimony and a guilty plea to concealing a homicide, drug dealing and obstruction of justice. He will receive a 20-year sentence under the deal.
Jason Harris spent more than nine hours on the witness stand over two days, admitting without hesitation that he lied throughout half a dozen interviews. The untruths were intended to protect both himself and his brother, he said.
A transcript of an Oct. 4, 2009, jail phone call between the brothers placed by Chris Harris three days after his arrest reflects support the family had for him.
“We all know you didn’t do it. We know you aren’t a mass murderer. Dude, if you know anything you better tell them. Don’t go down for this murder, man,” Jason Harris is overheard telling his brother in the call.
At the end of lengthy cross-examination by Chris Harris’ lawyer Daniel Fultz, Jason Harris was asked if he knows today what happened inside the Gee home the night of the murders.
“On the inside of the house, no, only what I was told,” he said.
The theory that Chris Harris killed Dillen Constant, 14, in self-defense after he interrupted a killing spree by the youth was never discussed between the brothers, Jason told Illinois Assistant Attorney General Steve Nate.
Jason Harris has maintained that his brother confessed to the murders, saying he killed them all to eliminate any witnesses.
A McLean County bar owner who admitted he gave Jason Harris the cocaine the pair used before going to Beason was among Thursday’s the final witnesses.
John Williams, owner of Tweakers Bar in Stanford, testified that he was using cocaine in his garage when Jason and Chris Harris stopped by around 9 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2009. Williams demonstrated for the jury how he transferred “a small amount of cocaine from my hand to his.”
Williams said he did not take any money from Jason Harris, who did odd jobs around the bar as payment for a vehicle Williams sold to him.
“I didn’t want to get rid of it. I wanted to keep it for myself,” the business owner said of the drugs.
The state will continue its case Friday with additional scientific evidence expected.