From what little we've been able to gather, the slaughter of five members of the Gee family in tiny Beason in Logan County certainly would rank among the most horrific mass murders in central Illinois history. We are not second-guessing Logan County Sheriff Steven Nichols at this point - he obviously knows things the public does not and must have his reasons for not being more forthcoming about them - but this case and the investigation of it certainly have taken on some curious dimensions.

From what little we've been able to gather, the slaughter of five members of the Gee family in tiny Beason in Logan County certainly would rank among the most horrific mass murders in central Illinois history.


A sixth member - a 3-year-old girl - is in a Peoria hospital after reportedly surviving the attack with "life-threatening" injuries, though so far as we know her condition is stabilized, if still critical. Certainly we pray for her.


We are not second-guessing Logan County Sheriff Steven Nichols at this point - he obviously knows things the public does not and must have his reasons for not being more forthcoming about them - but this case and the investigation of it certainly have taken on some curious dimensions.


First, from the Logan County Sheriff's office getting the 911 call at about 4:30 p.m. Monday until the sheriff's Tuesday morning press conference, some 18 hours passed. The hours after discovery of a crime are a very crucial time, of course, both in terms of safety to other members of the public and the potential for the perpetrator(s) to flee.


Nichols at first declined to answer questions about why it took so long to go public, then said "we had a crime scene to protect. We had immediate leads to track down." With questions persisting about the delay, Nichols issued a press release that stated: "With the number of victims and size of the crime scene, the necessary evidence that determined this to be a homicide was not available until the morning hours of (Tuesday)." The possibility of a murder-suicide first had to be eliminated, he added.


Certainly we appreciate the desire to not jeopardize any investigation in a way that might compromise any future prosecution. Like the sheriff, we want the person or people responsible for this massacre to be caught, charged, convicted and punished severely. But if community members were warned by the sheriff at midday Tuesday to lock their doors and windows and be on the lookout for someone "armed and dangerous," well, he'll forgive those who wouldn't have minded hearing that heads-up on Monday night, closer to the commission of the crime.


Second, law enforcement officials did not immediately share the results of the autopsies other than to say the victims were not shot, as originally thought. On Thursday it was announced that "blunt force trauma" caused their deaths. People have been combing the farm fields surrounding the Gee home, looking for evidence. Presumably that included a weapon, with searchers having a general idea of what kind.


Indeed, answered questions are much in the minority compared to the unanswered ones. When do police believe the crime occurred? It seems it would have to be between Sunday morning, when one of the teenage victims was seen at a Lincoln church, and early Monday morning, when the kids didn't show up for the school bus. What happened to the Gee's dog, which we're told was "very protective" of the family? News reports have indicated that the parents and children were well-liked, but did they have any enemies, or was this the work of a stranger? Local police have consulted with the FBI's behavioral sciences unit, which sounds like something out of a "Criminal Minds" episode but is nonetheless reassuring.


Police have been conducting regular press conferences. At one of them the sheriff said they were looking for information about a small pickup truck seen about midnight Sunday/Monday in the town of 200, possibly a Chevrolet S-10 or Ford Ranger, painted in gray primer with chrome exhaust pipes coming out of the bed of the truck. It sounds unusual enough that someone might notice. It's a start.


We appreciate that police are in a tough spot here between giving out just enough information for the public to protect itself and get some peace of mind, and giving out too much that might tip off the person or people responsible here as to what direction the investigation is going. They don't get much practice in this sort of thing -- thank heavens.


We'd suggest this: Whoever did this must know by now that the authorities are looking to arrest someone, and an informed public can be quite helpful in tracking down the bad guys, as we witnessed with the D.C. sniper killings in 2002, among others over the years.


And we know this: Something evil happened this week inside the gray-blue house on Broadway Street in tiny Beason. What kind of monster tries to take out an entire family? It's difficult to rest easy as long as the person responsible is still out there somewhere. Anyone with information that might be helpful is encouraged to call (217) 732-3000.


Peoria Journal Star