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Man charged with setting fire to home of elderly couple, killing one


The Bucks County District Attorney’s office said it is reserving the right to seek the death penalty against the Scranton man who allegedly set a Buckingham house fire that killed an elderly man last December.

Christopher Gillie, 61, was arraigned May 6, a day after the DA’s office filed notice of aggravating circumstances in the homicide charges against him. Should officials decide to pursue the death penalty, they will look to prove three aggravating factors in the case against Gillie.

Those factors include:

- The defendant committed the killing during the commission of a felony.

- In the commission of the homicide the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the homicide.

- The defendant has a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to a person.

Gillie, who has been incarcerated at the Bucks County Correctional Facility, without bail, since his arrest in December, was arraigned on charges of criminal homicide, attempted criminal homicide, aggravated arson and firearms charges, among other crimes.

According to prosecutors, Gillie set the home of his girlfriend’s elderly parents on fire early on the morning of Dec. 5, 2021, trapping the stepfather inside and forcing his wife to flee to the neighbors’ in the middle of the night.

Julius Drelick, 81, perished in the blaze after the fire disabled the chairlift he and his wife, Phyllis Drelick, 85, used at their Private Drive home.

Phyllis, who had gotten up from bed after seeing car lights in the driveway and hearing someone enter the house, tried to use the chairlift to reach the first floor, but only made it partially down before the fire shut off the electricity. She was then forced to make her way down the darkened stairs, according to court records.

When she called to her husband to try and come down the stairs, he said he didn’t think he could and then stopped responding to her pleas. Phyllis escaped to a neighbors’ without injury.

The home was destroyed and Julius Drelick was found inside. He died of smoke and soot inhalation, authorities said.