GUILTY: Lesli Jett convicted in murder of 4-year-old

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PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) – A jury has found Lesli Jett, 35, guilty of the murder of four-year-old Tate Thurman.

Thurman died in Feb. 2020 after being in Jett’s care. She was convicted Monday of two counts of first-degree murder, including one for knowing there was a strong probability of death/bodily harm and one for intent to kill/do bodily harm. Additionally, she was found guilty on a third charge of aggravated battery.

A third count of first-degree murder knowing the act would cause death to a child under 12 brought back a verdict of not guilty.

Jett will be held without bail, and her bond has been revoked. A post-trial motion will take place Friday, Sept. 17, at 9 a.m.

For the last few weeks, Jett had been on trial for the murder of Tate Thurman. Jett was initially being charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery. She has now been convicted on three of those charges.

Monday, the state presented a timeline of events they said left Jett as the only one responsible. A timeline of marks on the boy’s body was noted, including scratches, lacerations, and a bruise near his eye just two days before he died.

Tate died Feb. 18, 2020, after Jett beat him to death, police alleged. Jett, however, said Tate slipped and fell while she was cleaning a fish tank in a different room. The pair were the only ones home at the time.

Tate is the son of Jett’s boyfriend, Jeremy Thurman. Throughout the trial, the court heard the original 911 call Jett made the morning of the incident, calls she made from jail, and testimony from the boy’s father, grandparents, and from Jett herself.

On Feb. 24, Jett made a call from jail to her estranged husband, Aaron Jett, asking him to take the fall.

“You [expletive] take this [expletive,]” she said. “I accidentally kicked Tate.”

The defense, however, said the state had yet to prove its case. Although they know that Tate was injured, they do not know where in the house the injuries occurred or the rate of the bleeding at the time. That was only found out at the hospital.

Tate’s older brother caused the injuries from being so steeped in WWE, the defense said.

“People getting stomped on by other people’s feet, that’s what WWE is all about,” Jett’s attorney Michael Brandt said.

However, State’s attorney Sarah Schryer argued this couldn’t be true. She said it would take a minimum of four-and-a-half minutes to cause the 260 injuries reported on Tate’s body.

“This was hard work, killing this little boy. This was an investment of considerable time and a lot of effort into beating this little boy to death. This was a job that would wear a person out, and she wants you to believe a seven-year-old did it,” she said.

As for the phone calls Jett made to her ex-husband, the defense said they did not prove anything.

“We heard a desperate person who is pleading some nonsensical way,” Brandt said. “There’s no admission of guilt, just admission of desperation.”

Brandt said the phone calls were from a desperate person who was in solitary confinement 23 hours a day.

“The phone call’s that we’ve heard, we heard a desperate person who is basically pleading for some, even ridiculous nonsensical way, to get out of jail. How in the world would that “scheme” ever work? It certainly wouldn’t, and anyone that was in their right mind thinking at the time wouldn’t even propose it,” he said.

Thursday, the defense grilled the boys’ father about wrestling and Tate’s older brother’s exposure to the activity. Earlier in the week, Jeremy described his son as a happy child who liked to play with his older brother and watch cartoons. But, Tate was also a bed-wetter, and Jeremy said Tate would often have accidents when he was away at work.

Friday, Jett took the stand to testify about the text messages she sent that showed her displeasure with the boy’s toilet training accidents. In court, she said the text messages shown reflected her feelings at the moment, but they did not reflect how she felt about Tate.

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