Monday, July 08, 2013
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Logan County Board praises Sheriff Nichols and his office

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[July 08, 2013]  On May 31, a collective sigh of relief could be felt in Logan County. It came after nearly four years of investigations and planning for the largest murder trial in recent history. Christopher Harris was found guilty of killing five members of the Gee family in Beason.

The murders occurred after midnight on a Sunday, during the early morning hours of Sept. 21, 2009. But, the family was not discovered until late afternoon, around 4:30 p.m. that Monday.

The sheriff's department was the lead investigative team involved with what was described as a horrific crime scene.

Sheriff Steve Nichols oversaw the thorough collection of an overwhelming amount of evidence and the massive search for the unknown killer or killers. He called in the state police, and the FBI joined the investigation also. He conducted news conferences and worked exhaustively.

Once the suspects were arrested, the department continued for several years to help prosecutors build their cases.

When the Logan County Board met for its adjourned session in June, Nichols was present as security for the meeting.

Board member Terry Carlton spoke for the board, praising the sheriff and his office. He began by recollecting that Logan County State's Attorney Jonathan Wright was present at the board of whole and that Wright and his office were praised for their extensive work and ultimate success in convicting the murderer.

"A lot of that, their ease of stuff, went into the evidence your team collected; how you kept it," Carlton said. "There were no mistakes and there was not difficulty up there (during the trial) because of the way your organization operated."

Carlton credited the sheriff for bringing in outside help that also aided in the early investigation and capture of two suspects. He added, "And, how you partnered with Illinois State Police. You did a great job."

Unknown to most people, a considerable amount of work was performed by the sheriff's investigators during the two months preceding the trial. The attorneys requested additional witness statements and evidence to be collected as the trial drew closer.

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Sheriff Nichols first responded: "I just want you to know the work that my two detectives did. In one week we were in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and southern Illinois. There were other trials going on, there was a lot going on. But the work they did interviewing people helped shorten the trial. For the work that they did, the defense did not call five more of the witnesses. My hats off to them!

"The work they (the detectives) did, they did on short notice. I'd get a call at noon; they (the prosecution) needed something by 8 o'clock in the morning. I made a phone call and they (the detectives) made it happen.

"I attended the trial every day and watched the prosecution do their job in a very splendored way.

"I'm glad it's over. It was time. Now we can move on."

Nichols concluded, "So, thank you."

Softly murmured "thank yous" reverberated throughout the board room, including from chairman Bob Farmer and law enforcement chair Rick Aylesworth. "Thank you for your leadership," said Sally Litterly, clerk and recorder.

The county had taken out bonds to cover up to $1 million in costs. The abbreviated trial saved the county (taxpayers) money, which was further reduced when Jason Harris took a plea bargain and only one trial was conducted. Costs were yet coming in but are expected to be less than half the budgeted amount.


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