Christopher Gillie


Created Feb 7th, 2023 | Updated Feb 8th, 2023

A Lackawanna County man will spend the rest of his life in state prison for setting the December 2021 fire at a Buckingham Township home that killed his girlfriend’s 81-year-old father.

Appearing in court on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, Christopher Gillie, 62, of Dunmore, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, attempted murder and related charges for the Dec. 5, 2021, fire that killed Julius Drelick. Drelick’s wife, Phyllis, was able to escape by fleeing the burning home.

As part of the negotiated plea deal, Gillie was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Raymond F. McHugh to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Drelick’s murder and a consecutive sentence of 25 years to life for the attempted murder of Drelick’s wife.

Additionally, Gillie was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $724,658.30. 

“In a mere matter of minutes, the Defendant turned a loving home into a raging inferno, killing Julius Drelick and condemning Phyllis Drelick to live out the remainder of her life in despair,” Deputy District Attorney Marc J. Furber said. “The Defendant used fire as a weapon, but his heart was as cold as ice. He deserves nothing less than to be behind bars for the rest of his life.”

Prior to sentencing, one of Julius Drelick’s daughters read a victim impact statement that detailed the joy of her childhood, memories of her father teaching her and her sisters how to skip stones in the creek and a home filled with music. 

Deputy District Attorney Furber read another victim impact statement from the daughter of Phyllis Drelick.

Before the fire, her mother was full of life, social and outgoing and loved to travel. Her mother would “live life to the fullest and do something fun every day,” her daughter wrote.

But her mother was left devastated the night her home was torched, and her husband was murdered. She struggled with nightmares, was deeply depressed and slowly became very angry. It eventually took a toll on her health, and she died four months later. 

“Her beautiful life was cut short by a selfish self-centered unfeeling monster,” she wrote.

In addition to first-degree murder and attempted murder, Gillie also pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking, aggravated arson, criminal mischief, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, persons not to possess firearms, burglary and criminal trespassing. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of arson endangering persons.

In May, the 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.

The fire at 5777 Private Drive, Buckingham Township 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 Deputy District Attorney Brittney Kern prosecuted this case.

Media Contact: Manuel Gamiz Jr., 215.348.6298,

Christopher Gillie