Charges filed after intentionally set fire killed man, 81, in Bucks County, DA says

A Scranton, Pennsylvania man is accused of starting a fire at a Bucks County home that killed an elderly man from the home early Sunday morning. 

Christopher Gillie, 61, is charged with criminal homicide, attempted criminal homicide, theft by unlawful taking, aggravated arson, and related charges in connection with the early morning fire. 

Shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday morning, crews responded to the 5700 block of Private Drive for a report of a fire with two elderly residents trapped inside. 

Responding officers and firefighters arrived on the scene to find flames coming from the home. 

An elderly woman who lived inside was able to escape the burning home and informed officers that her husband was still inside. Firefighters attempted to rescue her husband. 81-year-old Julius Drelick, but were unable to get inside due to smoke and fire conditions. 


Drelick was later found dead in an upstairs bedroom. Authorities say the Drelick’s used a chair lift to get up and down the stairs, but the fire knocked out electricity to the home. Drelick was unable to get down the stairs.

"I can’t stop thinking about that chairlift frozen in place by the fire in the middle of the stairs," Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said. "The defendant’s intentional fire caused the electrical short to the chairlift just after Mrs. Drelick used it to escape the fire and prevented Mr. Drelick from doing the same thing."

During the investigation into the cause of the fire, an accelerant detecting K9 was brought to the scene and detected an accelerant in three areas of the family room. 

Surveillance footage obtained by investigators also showed a light-colored SUV traveling up the driveway of Drelick’s home around 2 a.m. and leaving just before 3 a.m. 

Further investigation led authorities to Gillie, who lives with Drelick’s daughter in Dunmore, Lackawanna County. 

Around 7:40 a.m. Sunday morning, officers pulled over Gillie in the silver Buick Encore. The officer conducting the stop reported a strong odor of gasoline coming from Gillie and the vehicle. A lighter was also visible on the passenger seat.

Police say Gillie was also found to be in possession of the keys to Drelick’s home, and an old-style rifle that belonged to Drelick and was displayed on a mantle in the family room where the accelerant was detected. 



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