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Man gets life in prison for killing 5 family members

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LINCOLN, IL (KTVI) - Relatives of five murder victims filled a third floor courtroom in Lincoln, IL Friday afternoon to watch the sentencing of convicted murder Christopher Harris.

He received five consecutive life sentences plus eighty additional years  for attempted murder, home invasion and armed robbery.  A jury that met in Peoria because of pre-trial publicity in Lincoln found the 34-year old Harris guilty on May 31 of killing his former in-laws and three of their children.

The victims included Rick and Ruth Gee and children Justina Constant, Dillen Constant and Austin Gee.  Three year old Tabitha Gee was seriously injured and survived the attack in September of 2009.

Prosecutors in Logan County called the crimes the most horrific they had ever seen.  The victims were bludgeoned to death with a tire rod.

Relatives presented  victim impact statements  before the sentence was imposed.  Judith Stodgell, mother of Rick Gee, spoke of the heartache the crime caused for numerous family members.  She read a statement from Tabitha who is now age 7 and  being raised by family members.  "You are a big liar," she told Christopher Harris adding, "You are mean and scary; you do not hit a three year old."

A court employee read a statement from the Gee's daughter Nicole who has two children with Harris.  "You are nothing to me and my babies," she wrote.  The daughter told her father, "I never want to speak to you again; I never want to see you again."

Terri Miller Reagan who identified herself as Dillen Constant's sister spoke to reporters on behalf of the family.  "The five consecutive life terms is exactly what we were looking for," she said noting the death penalty was not possible in Illinois.  "It probably would be an easy cop out to give him a death penalty so justice has prevailed and we're happy with the verdict."

Harris had claimed Dillen Constant was the killer and said he had to kill the teenager in self defense when he interrupted the crime spree.

Harris continued to deny responsibility for the murders Friday in court.  Relatives called him a coward and a hypocrite.

Betsey.bruce@tvstl.com
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