Bucks County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a Lackawanna County man who they say set a fire that killed his girlfriend’s stepfather and destroyed the family home.
Prosecutors said Friday that Christopher Gillie, who has three previous arson convictions, knew that setting the fire would have potentially deadly consequences.
Gillie, 61, is charged with homicide, attempted homicide, burglary, arson, and related offenses in the death of 81-year-old Julius Drelick. He has remained in custody since his December arrest, denied bail.
On Dec. 6, Gillie stole a car registered to his girlfriend, Lisa King, and drove more than two hours from their home in Dunmore to her parents’ home in Buckingham Township, where he set the fire, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest.
Gillie and King had been dating for several years, and in recent months, prosecutors said, the couple’s relationship had grown strained by her regular visits to care for her mother and stepfather in their Bucks County home. During an October visit, they said, Gillie clashed with King’s mother, Phyllis Drelick, 86, and she kicked him out of her home.
Weeks later, prosecutors said, Gillie returned to the Drelicks’ home, alone, in the predawn hours of a December morning. He broke in while the couple slept, set several small fires, and stole an antique rifle, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest.
The couple awakened to the smell of smoke about 3 a.m. and attempted to flee the home, authorities said. Phyllis Drelick tried to reach the front door from the second-floor bedroom using an electric chair lift, but the fire cut off the home’s electricity, stranding her halfway, the arrest affidavit said. She was able to make her way down to the front door, but could not send the chair back up for her husband, who later died from smoke inhalation.
Phyllis Drelick died in April of causes unrelated to the fire, her family said.
Gillie has been convicted of arson three times, court records show, twice in Lackawanna County and once in Bucks County. His most recent conviction was in 2013, when he set fire to a vacant garage and home in Scranton. He served five years in state prison and was released in 2018, according to state prison records. He was on probation at the time of his arrest in Drelick’s death.