Jett trial day 3: Autopsy on four-year-old took five hours due to amount of external injuries

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PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — Day three of the trial of an East Peoria woman is underway in Tazewell County.

Lesli Jett, 34, is accused of beating four-year-old Tate Thurman to death in Feb. 2020. Jett originally told police Thurman fell down the stairs.

In the courtroom, East Peoria Police officer Fernando Alvarez testified he spoke to Jett at the hospital and took pictures of the boy’s hands, which were red. Jett told him it was from hair dye and cigarettes.

Also at the hospital that night was East Peoria Detective Dale Orr, who showed pictures to Jett who told him she did not know how he received the injuries on his body. She also claimed the child was very clumsy and “loves wrestling.”

The court also heard from Tate’s great-aunt, Julie Runyon, and Sadie Kistler, a stay-at-home mom who was also at the hospital when Tate was admitted.

Kistler said she observed Jett passed out under the sink on the floor of the waiting room bathroom. She said Jett had to be carried out of the bathroom.

“I was startled and walked out of the bathroom and blatantly said, she was asleep on the bathroom floor,” Kistler said.

Runyon was at the hospital as well. She said the last time she saw Tate was the weekend before he died. She said Tate and his brother J.T. slept over at her house every other weekend. She said Tate was a well-behaved child who loved to dance and watch cartoons.

She said when Tate was at her house that weekend, he was not sick or injured, and certainly didn’t have any bruises on his back. She said he was a little clumsy, just like herself, but always “popped right back up.”

She got very emotional and started to cry while looking at pictures of Tate’s injuries.

“I never saw bruising like that,” she said.

Runyon said Jett was already at the hospital by the time she arrived. She said Jett never asked about Tate’s status or give an explanation about what happened.

Jett was not in the room when Tate was declared brain dead.

In court Thursday, it was revealed the autopsy on the child lasted five hours. Orr said these usually take 75-90 minutes, but the extended timeline was due to three hours being spent examining external injuries.

Yesterday, a pediatric intensivist with OSF told the jury the explanation Jett gave, that the child fell down the stairs, was inconsistent with the severity of the injuries he suffered.

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