BUCKINGHAM TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- An 81-year-old man was killed in a fire early Sunday morning that investigators say was intentionally set, and his daughter's roommate has been charged with starting the blaze.
The body of that victim, Julius Delick, was found on the second floor. Investigators say he was trapped there because the chairlift he used to get down the stairs was disabled by the fire. His wife, Phyllis Drelick, 85, survived.
"I can't stop thinking about that chairlift frozen in place by the fire in the middle of the stairs," 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. I cannot imagine the terror that they both must have felt as they were separated by the fire. Now, forever."
According to Weintraub, 61-year-old Christopher George Gillie, of Scranton, is now facing a list of charges including criminal homicide and attempted criminal homicide.
The fire began at about 3:15 a.m. Sunday at a home on the 5800 block of Private Drive.
Surveillance footage showed a light-colored SUV approaching the home at approximately 2:04 a.m. Officials said he set three small fires before leaving at about 2:53 a.m.
Further investigation led to Gillie, who lives with the Drelick's daughter in Dunmore, Lackawanna County. Hours after the fire, Gillie was stopped by police while driving a Buick Encore, which belonged to the Drelick's daughter. Authorities said he took the car without her permission.
Police said Gillie smelled like gas and a lighter was visible on the passenger seat. He was also found with the house keys to the home and an older-style rifle was sitting in plain view on the rear seat of the vehicle. The rifle was positively identified as belonging to the Drelicks and had been hanging above their fireplace mantle, in the same room where a K9 detected accelerants.
Nine years ago, officials said he did prison time after being convicted of setting fire to a vacant home and a garage in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
On Monday, Weintraub said there is little standing in the way of a conviction in this case.
"Now, we have to do our job and get justice for the Drelick's and for our community," he said.