‘Manipulative, dishonest, untrustworthy,’ 75 years in prison for East Peoria child murderer

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PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — An East Peoria woman was in Tazewell County Court Friday to learn how long she will spend in prison.

Lesli Jett was convicted in July of murdering her boyfriend’s four-year-old son, Tate Thurman.

After a day-long hearing, she was sentenced to 75 years in prison with three years of supervised supervision. Jett sat emotionless while the sentence was read out.

Calling Jett a “horrible pseudo-parent,” Judge Paul Gilfillan admonished her for not taking any responsibility.

Three victim impact statements heard in the courtroom Friday asked for the maximum sentence.

Jeremy Thurman, the boy’s father, and Jett’s ex-boyfriend, revealed he has been diagnosed with severe PTSD as a result of his son’s murder, and called Jett, “a threat to society.”

“As I am providing for my family… she was hurting my son while I was at work,” he said.

Thurman said he was pleased with the judge’s sentence, but nothing will bring his little boy back.

“Justice was served, happy for that. Doesn’t bring Tate back though, but he’s looking down. He’s with me every day, I can feel that,” he said.

The boy’s aunt, Julie Runyon, called Jett, “an evil person” and said their family will never be the same.

“I always think about how she made him suffer… I don’t know how my nephew [Jeremy] is ever going to get through this,” she said.

Doug Kent, Tate’s paternal grandfather, said there are “no winners, only losers,” in this situation, and he misses his grandson terribly.

“He was my little buddy, and always will be,” he said.

The hearing started Friday morning with the defense requesting a new trial, which was denied by Judge Gilfillan.

The court also learned about Jett’s drug abuse. More than 60 pages of texts revealed she bought and sold Adderall often. She also tested positive for a “high” level of methamphetamines on Feb. 19, 2020, the day after Tate was taken to the hospital, according to Michael Steward, the probation officer who conducted Jett’s pre-sentencing investigation.

It was also revealed Jett’s two-year-old son exhibited alarming behaviors, according to his paternal grandmother Eugenia Marie Small. She said the child had dental, speech, eating, sleep, and behavior problems. The child had three rotten teeth pulled and would sleep all day and stay up all night, and he would punch himself in the stomach while saying “stop, mom, stop.”

She said the child has since developed better sleeping patterns and improved speech and eating patterns since being removed from Jett’s care and placed into hers. Jett relinquished all parental rights.


Background

Thurman died in Feb. 2020 after being in Jett’s care. In July, she was convicted 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 was initially being charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery. She has been convicted on three of those charges.

In July, 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.

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