Accused killer pleads not guilty, set to appear in court again in April

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PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — Thirty-three-year-old Lesli Jett pleaded not guilty Thursday at the Tazewell County Courthouse.

Her case will continue on April 9, which will be a scheduling conference. Jett wants to hire private counsel. She appeared via video Thursday afternoon.

Jett was arrested for the death of four-year-old Tate Thurman and officially charged with murder.

She is facing up to 100 years in prison.

“You have been charged with four counts, on the bill of indictment, first is first-degree murder intent to kill victim under 12 years of age which is a Class M felony,” said Judge Katherine Gorman.

“Inflicted abdominal blunt force trauma upon T.T. (Tate Thurman) a child under 12 years of age, therefore causing the death of T.T.” Judge Gorman continued.

Jett, the girlfriend of Thurman’s father, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder with the intent to kill/injure. The murder charges were specifically for intent to kill a child under the age of 12, intent to do great bodily harm to a child under the age of 12, and a strong probability of great bodily harm/death to a child, respectively.

Jett was additionally charged with aggravated battery to a child.

Crews were called to the 100 block of Jefferson Court in East Peoria on Feb. 18 for a report of a child in cardiac arrest. East Peoria Police Chief Steve Roegge previously said crews contacted the police shortly after arrival because the child was covered in bruises and “the nature of the call was suspicious.” Thurman was then transported to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

According to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by WMBD, Jett claimed Thurman “slipped on some water and fell on the floor and immediately became unresponsive.” She, Thurman, and a sleeping two-year-old child were the only people home at the time; his father was at work in Urbana.

Doctors found extensive bruising and lacerations throughout Thurman’s body, and he had a large intestinal tear that caused internal bleeding. Both Thurman’s father and Jett persisted that the injuries were from the child slipping and falling.

The documents state Thurman never regained consciousness and died on Feb. 20. It was previously reported he was put on a ventilator as well.

Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood on Thursday said the boy’s injuries were “grossly inconsistent” with what Jett had told police, and said Thurman had bruises “from head to toe.”

In addition to the internal injuries noted by doctors at OSF, the autopsy results showed extensive deep muscular bruising of the abdominal wall and back, an acute fracture on the collarbone, and extensive contusions and abrasions to his scalp, face, neck, chest, shoulders, limbs, buttocks, and genital area.

“Make no mistake about it, this was an abuse case,” Umholtz said. “This was a case where it was immediately apparent to fire and rescue [crews] that this case was not as Miss Jett described it, as ‘a slip and fall.’ Far from it.”

Jett was appointed a public defender in court and her bond was set at $3 million. She will also be on the Illinois Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry for the next 10 years.

Additionally, Jett will not be allowed to have contact with any child under the age of 18.

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