Murder charge for Castaic woman

In this 2014 photo, a Santa Clarita Sheriff's Deputy cruiser sits in front of a house in Castaic where a dead body was found on Sept. 5, 2014. photo by Dan Watson , The Signal
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A Castaic woman accused of killing her elderly father two years ago was scheduled to be arraigned today on a felony charge of murder after a judge ordered her to stand trial two weeks ago.

Denise Ann Gillis, 48, was expected to appear Wednesday in San Fernando Superior Court where she was to be formally charged with murder in the stabbing death of her 87-year-old father, James Edison Gillis.

After just three hours of evidence presented by four witnesses, Gillis was held to answer to the charge filed against her two years ago.

Witnesses testifying at the Gillis prelim on Oct. 5 included: a Walgreens store clerk, a deputy with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, a medical examiner with the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner and a detective assigned to the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Homicide Bureau, according to transcripts.

Call 9-1-1

The store clerk told the court that Gillis was walking her dog – Ananda – on Sept. 5, 2014 when she entered the Walgreens store on Sloan Canyon Road in Castaic.

Gillis handed the clerk a note and told him to call 9-1-1.

Deputy Robert Garcia – the second witness to testify – told the court that he went the Walgreens store, interviewed the clerk and examined the note which gave an address on Emerald Lane for a mobile home park in Castaic.

Since Gillis had asked the clerk to call 9-1-1, Deputy Garcia drove to the mobile home park in an attempt to find Gillis.

‘I did it’

Garcia said he found Gillis casually walking her dog in the middle of the street.

When he approached her, Gillis told him that ‘she did it,’ he testified.

When asked what she had done, Gillis told him she killed her father. She then gave the deputy keys to the mobile home where the two lived.

Garcia called for additional patrol units to meet him at the house.

He testified that he saw a man’s arm or leg and blood on the floor of the home through a window.

Deputies found the body of Gillis’s father face down in the bedroom described as having “blood everywhere,” with his hands tied behind his back by a rope-like green ligature.

Garcia said he notified homicide and the coroner.


Deputy Medical Examiner Odey Ukpo, who told court he had performed nearly 700 autopsies, gave an accurate description of the injuries – multiple and blunt force and sharp force – found on the body of James Gillis.

The body arrived at the coroner’s office with a serrated knife embedded in the deceased man’s chest. The autopsy was completed Sept. 8, 2014, Ukpo testified.

When asked if the location of the knife was the location of the fatal stab wound, he said yes.

But, in addition to the chest wound, the medical examiner found at least 16 lacerations to the man’s head, most of them on the top of the head, and one stab wound to the middle of the forehead.

He also found 22 stab wounds to the man’s body.


The last to testify was LASD Homicide Detective Robert Gray who told the court he interviewed Gillis on the day her father’s body was found.

Gillis told Gray she suffered from schizophrenia, he said, and that she felt her life and the life her dog – which she referred to as her daughter – were threatened by her father.

Subsequent to her arrest, Gillis later underwent a court-ordered evaluation to determine her mental competency.

In March, following back-to-back psychiatric assessments, Gillis was found competent to stand trial on a charge of murder.

If convicted as charged, she faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in state prison.


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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt


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