Gillie arraigned on charges he set fatal Buckingham fire; notice of aggravating factors filed

Christopher Gillie, charged with setting the December fire at a Buckingham Township home that killed an 81-year-old man, was formally arraigned Friday morning, a day after the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office filed notice of aggravating circumstances in the murder case against him.

Gillie, 61, of Dunmore, Lackawanna County, was arraigned before Common Pleas Judge Raymond F. McHugh on charges of criminal homicide, attempted criminal homicide, theft by unlawful taking, aggravated arson, criminal mischief, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, persons not to possess firearms, two counts each of burglary and criminal trespassing and three counts of arson endangering persons.

Gillie remains imprisoned without bail in the Bucks County Correctional Facility.

On Thursday, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office filed notice reserving its right to seek the death penalty against Gillie, listing three aggravating factors the Commonwealth would seek to prove should it choose to pursue the death penalty against him.

They are: 1) that the defendant committed the killing during the commission of a felony, 2) that in the commission of the murder the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the murder, and 3) that the defendant has a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to a person.

Julius Drelick, 81, died in the Dec. 5, 2021, fire at 5777 Private Drive, Buckingham Township. His wife was able to escape by fleeing the burning home.

The fire was reported to county dispatchers at 3:07 a.m. with information that two elderly residents may be trapped inside. Upon arrival, police and fire units found a female resident outside of the house, but she stated that her husband was still inside. 

The house was fully involved with flames and smoke and initial efforts to gain access were unsuccessful. Fire personnel were able to finally reach the second homeowner, who was unresponsive. The male, identified as 81-year-old Julius Drelick, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The Drelicks used a chair lift to get up and down the stairs, but the fire knocked out electricity in the home, so Julius Drelick was unable to use the lift to get down. As part of the investigation, an accelerant detection K9 was brought to the scene and detected an accelerant in three areas of the interior of a family room located on the east side of the building.

Further investigation by Bucks County Detectives and the Buckingham Township Police Department led to Gillie, who resides with the Drelick’s daughter in Dunmore, Lackawanna County.

Hours after the fire, he was stopped in Lackawanna County by Dunmore Police. A strong odor of gasoline was emanating from Gillie, and a lighter was visible on the passenger seat.

Gillie was also found with the house keys to 5777 Private Drive in his pocket and an older style rifle, which was positively identified as belonging to the Drelicks, was sitting in plain view on the rear seat of the vehicle.

This case was investigated by Detectives with the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and the Buckingham Township Police Department, with assistance from the Bucks County Fire Marshal, the Buckingham Township Fire Marshal, the Bristol Township Fire Marshal, the Bensalem Township Fire Marshal, the Philadelphia Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Dunmore Police Department, the Solebury Township Police Department, the Midway Fire Company and the Bucks County Coroner's Office.

Deputy District Attorney Marc J. Furber and Assistant District Attorney Brittney Kern are assigned for prosecution.

Media Contact: Manuel Gamiz Jr., 215.348.6298, mgamiz@buckscounty.org

Criminal charges are allegations subject to proof in court. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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PDF icon Notice of Aggravating Circumstances69.09 KB