Castaic woman’s murder trial put off another month

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

More than two and a half years after her arrest, a Castaic woman accused of killing her elderly father saw her murder trial postponed again Wednesday.

Denise Ann Gillis was 48 when she was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of murder in the stabbing death of her 87-year-old father, James Edison Gillis.  She is now 51.

She’s been to San Fernando Superior Court more than a dozen times since her arrest and, on Wednesday, appeared again and was, again, told to return next month.

Gillis was ordered to return to court Apr. 25 for another “pre-trial” hearing, Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, told The Signal Wednesday.

Her murder trial would follow at a later date.

A significant portion of time consumed since her arrest was time used determining whether or not she was mentally competent to stand trial.

Subsequent to her arrest, Gillis – who court was told suffers from schizophrenia – underwent a court-ordered evaluation to determine her mental competency.

In March 2016, following back-to-back psychiatric assessments, Gillis was found competent to stand trial on a charge of murder.

Then in October, a judge ruled there was enough evidence to proceed to a murder trial.

After just three hours of evidence presented by four witnesses at her preliminary hearing on Oct. 5, 2016, Gillis was held to answer to the charge of murder filed against her in 2014.

Witnesses testifying at her prelim 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.

The most sensational prelim testimony was presented by Deputy Medical Examiner Odey Ukpo, who 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.

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