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Judge Sentences ‘Horrible Pseudo-Parent’ to Decades Behind Bars for Murdering Boyfriend’s Four-Year-Old Son

Lesli Jett appears in a mugshot.

Lesli Jett appears in a jail mugshot.

A judge in Tazewell County, Ill. on Friday sentenced a woman to 75 years behind bars for killing her boyfriend’s four-year-old son.

Judge Paul Gilfillan called convicted murderer Lesli Jett, 35, a “horrible pseudo-parent” for causing the death of Tate Thurman in Feb. 2020.  That’s according to coverage of the hearing from Peoria, Ill. CBS affiliate WMBD-TV.

Jett barely moved as the judge issued the sentence, but NBC affiliate WEEK-TV said she raised her voice at one point to attempt to contest a prosecutor’s argument.

“The fact that she’s not showing remorse  . . . doesn’t necessarily help her here today,” Judge Gilfillan also said per a report by the Peoria Journal Star.

Jeremy Thurman, the victim’s father and the defendant’s ex-boyfriend, told the judge that Jett was a “threat to society.”

“As I am providing for my family . . . she was hurting my son while I was at work,” Jeremy Thurman said in a WMBD report about the case.

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

Julie Runyon, the victim’s aunt, called Jett “an evil person.”

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

“He was my little buddy and always will be,” said Doug Kent, the victim’s parental grandfather, while speaking about Tate.

Citing a probation officer who handled a pre-sentencing investigation, WMBD reported that Jett “tested positive for a ‘high’ level of methamphetamines on Feb. 19, 2020, the day after Tate was taken to the hospital.”

Lesli Jett is seen appearing in court. (Image via screengrab from WMBD-TV.)

Lesli Jett is seen during a court hearing. (Image via screengrab from WMBD-TV.)

A probable cause affidavit said Jett told the authorities that the preschooler slipped on a wet floor, fell down, and “immediately became unresponsive.”  However, the authorities determined the boy died from cardiac arrest due to internal bleeding inflicted by blunt force abdominal trauma.  As Law&Crime previously noted:

According to authorities, Thurman was all-but-wholly black and blue, the result of bruising from his head to his toes that included his genitals. An autopsy on the boy’s body allegedly revealed that his intestine and pancreas were bleeding, that his clavicle was broken and that he had internal bruising deep into his torso, neck and scalp. Medical records cited by authorities suggest the boy slipped into a coma within half an hour of being beaten by the defendant.

WEEK reported that a forensic pathologist testified to finding “260 internal and external injuries during an autopsy.”  A total of “84 of those were on the boy’s head and face,” the TV station said.

Doctors declared Tate braindead.  He died in a hospital.

WMBD said the pre-sentence report also outlined disturbing allegations involving a separate child — Jett’s own two-year-old son. Eugenia Marie Small, that child’s grandmother, reportedly told authorities that the two-year-old “had dental, speech, eating, sleep, and behavior problems,” WMBD said.  “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.'”

Jett gave up “all parental rights” to the two-year-old, the television station noted; authorities said the boy improved after he was removed from his mother’s custody and went to live with his grandmother.

According to court records, Jett was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery to a child under the age of thirteen.

A jury convicted Jett of two counts of first-degree murder but acquitted the on the third.  Legally, the jury agreed that Jett knew a strong probability of death or bodily harm would result from her actions (that’s one count of first-degree murder) and intended to either kill or cause bodily harm to the boy (that’s another count of first-degree murder).  But the jury didn’t agree that Jett knowingly caused the death of the child — that count of first-degree murder ended with an acquittal.

The jury convicted as to the lesser count of aggravated battery.

WEEK said the sentencing hearing lasted more than seven hours.

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.