Cold case crime site dug up

Relates to:
Date: 1999-08-05

Scholars join investigators seeking evidence in the brutal 1992 murder of a woman after her parents confess to the killing, state police say.

Associated Press

BEAR ROCKS - An anthropological team from Mercyhurst College on Friday continued searching for evidence in the alleged 1992 murder of a 25-year-old mentally retarded woman by her adoptive parents.

Forensic anthropologist Dennis Dirkmaat is leading a team of Mercyhurst students and faculty as well as state police in a search for Helen Gillin’s bone fragments in a wooded lot in Fayette County. Police alleged that Helen's parents, James, 52, and his wife, Roberta, 50, tried to poison their daughter, then stomped on her and perhaps stabbed her. They are also accused of burning her body and dumping the ashes in the pit where the dig is taking place. Police said they also dumped animal bones in the pit to cover their actions.

The Gillins allegedly killed their daughter after Roberta Gillin accused her husband of having sex with the woman, police said.

Police compared the search to an archeological dig, with the team on their hands and knees digging carefully.

The dig site is directly across llrom the road where the Gillins used to live, said neighbor Russ Peters.

A state police aflidavit said the Gillins con- fessed to killing their daughter after their arrest. They remained jailed Friday in Fayette County. Their preliminary hearings were scheduled for Monday. A secretary for District Justice Robert W. Breakiron said Friday that the hearings were likely to be rescheduled.

When Helen disappeared in 1992, the Gilhns told anyone who asked that she had run away with a boyfriend.

But police said their second daughter, Mary Jo Gillin Overly. now 20, saw the killing. In February 1995 she confided in a friend, Sandra Wiltrout. Wiltrout told the story to her mother-in-law. Marjorie Ann Wiltrout, who reported the crime to police.

At that time Overly agreed to wear a tape recorder in her parents’ presence in hopes that they would incriminate themselves, but the recording was partially inaudible.


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