Castaic woman pleads no contest to murdering her father

Dan Watson A Santa Clarita Sheriff's Deputy cruiser sits in front of a house in Castaic where a dead body was found in 2014. 090514


Denise Gillis, the Castaic woman accused of killing her elderly father more than three years ago, pleaded no contest Tuesday to one count of second degree murder.

“Denise Gillis pleaded no contest today to one count of second degree murder,” Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office told The Signal Tuesday.

“A court trial to determine her sanity at the time of the killing is scheduled to begin tomorrow,” he said.

It’s been more than three years since deputies found the body of 87-year-old stabbing victim James Gillis inside a Castaic home and the woman accused of killing him has yet to stand trial.

On Sept. 5, 2014, deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station found the body of James Edison Gillis and arrested his daughter, Denise Ann Gillis, on suspicion of murder.

Gillis, now 51 years old, has appeared several times in San Fernando Superior Court only to be told to return to court at a later date.

Denise Ann Gillis was 48 when she was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of murder.

A significant portion of time consumed since her arrest was time used determining whether or not Gillis 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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