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Woman to stand trial in adopted daughter's death

| Saturday, May 25, 2002

UNIONTOWN - A Fayette County woman who is accused of aiding her husband in the stomping death of their daughter and the subsequent burning of her body in a backyard pit a decade ago will go on trial in June.

Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon this week called to the trial the case against Roberta F. Gillin, 51, of Masontown. She is charged by state police with homicide, criminal conspiracy to commit homicide and abuse of a corpse for the death of Helen Louise Gillin in 1992. The 25-year-old woman, who was mentally challenged, was beaten to death by James Gillin at the Gillins' former residence in Bear Rocks, Bullskin Township.

As James Gillin stomped his adopted daughter to death, Roberta Gillin allegedly did nothing to stop her husband. The couple allegedly burned Helen Gillin's corpse in a back yard burn pit. The pit was cleaned out a day later and the ashes were dumped across the road from the Gillin residence.

Gillin's attorney, Paul Gettleman of Portersville, did not attend call of the list proceedings. Vernon listed the case for trial.

"He is aware it's going to trial," said Vernon when asked by Common Pleas Judge John F. Wagner Jr. if Gettleman would be prepared for the trial which begins June 3.

"He, in fact, said he was ready (for trial) last month," stated Vernon.

The Gillins were arrested in August 1999.

Police alleged that Roberta Gillin had known about a sexual relationship between her husband and daughter for a year and wanted her husband "to do something" about their daughter.

James Gillin was convicted in January 2001 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 5 to 14 years.

During James Gillin's trial, testimony revealed that Roberta Gillin fed Helen Gillin a lethal concoction of laundry detergent and heart medication. The mixture made Helen Gillin sick, and James Gillin began jumping upon his daughter's chest as she was lying in the grass.

Roberta Gillin, who is free on $25,000 bond, has twice attempted to enter guilty pleas to charges in connection with the case. Following her husband's sentencing, she attempted to enter a guilty plea before Judge Conrad Capuzzi on the charges of criminal conspiracy and abuse of a corpse but Capuzzi refused to accept the plea bargain.

She then decided in March 2001 to enter a general plea of guilt to third-degree murder before Judge Gerald Solomon. At sentencing proceedings on March 27, 2001, she decided to withdraw her plea and face a trial.

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