A central Illinois sheriff says detectives investigating the slayings of five family members whose bodies were discovered in their home this week have received tips from all over the country.
But four days after the bodies were discovered inside the home in Beason, Lincoln County Sheriff Steven Nichols says no arrests have been made.
Authorities say Ruth and Raymond Gee and three of their children died of blunt force trauma, but they haven't elaborated. The couple's 3-year-old daughter survived the attack and remains hospitalized.
On Thursday, Nichols said all five family members were killed by "blunt force trauma," though he declined to provide other details, including whether authorities have recovered any weapons.
Nichols reported the autopsy finding after some of his initial comments raised more questions about the killings, particularly his statement that deputies responded after a 911 call reporting possible shots fired. Nichols said Wednesday that none of the victims had been shot.
Asked Thursday how one person might inflict deadly blunt force on five people, Nichols declined to comment.
Investigators finished combing through the crime scene in the small town of Beason on Wednesday night — more than two days after the bodies were found, Nichols said. A state police trailer and other official vehicles that had been parked in front of the home for days were no longer there Thursday, and a main street that had been blocked off was open.
"The forensic evidence in this case is significant," Nichols said. He said there were hundreds of fingerprints, blood samples and DNA evidence but didn't elaborate.
Raymond "Rick" Gee, 46, and Ruth Gee, 39, were found dead in the home Monday with their children, 16-year-old Justina Constant, 14-year-old Dillen Constant and 11-year-old Austin Gee.
The Gees' youngest daughter, a 3-year-old girl who survived the attack, was in critical but stable condition Thursday; her injuries also were caused by blunt force, Nichols said. A deputy has been assigned to the hospital but, contrary to published reports, no other family members have been placed in protective custody, he said.
Nichols has not said when authorities believe the family was killed nor whether investigators have identified any suspects.
The sheriff said authorities waited a day after the bodies were found to tell Beason residents to lock their doors because it wasn't immediately clear whether the slayings were a murder-suicide.
"We had to know what we had, before we could make any decisions," he said. He added there was a heightened police presence in Beason, a town of a few hundred people about 140 miles southwest of Chicago, immediately after the discovery and residents were safe.
Searching for gray pickup
Nichols asked the public Wednesday for help in finding a gray pickup, possibly a Ford that was painted only in primer, that was spotted in the area late Sunday.
The head of the Logan County Emergency Management Agency, Dan Fulscher, said Thursday that the 911 call was made by someone who entered the house and saw bloody bodies "and very quickly got out of there."
Area residents surmised something was amiss in the house long before the 911 call that Nichols said came in around 4:30 p.m. Monday.
Jodie Duncan, the town's postmaster, said she usually saw the children every morning at her office, where they came to pick up the bus.
"I asked one of the kids, 'Where are they? They said, 'They're not here and they always beat us here,'" she said Wednesday.
Family friends said the Gees locked their front door but only to keep their 3-year-old daughter from leaving. And though they often left the back door unlocked so the child could get in and out of the yard, they had a protective dog.
"It doesn't matter if the back door was open or not because their dog was very protective of their family," said Stormee Whitney, a 17-year-old friend of Justina Constant.
That the sheriff and others were so tightlipped about the slayings did not bother Whitney's mother, Marjorie Wright.
"They're not telling us anything ... so they can make sure that they catch these people that (did) this," Wright said.