Family: Lackawanna murder suspect had history of mental illness, violence

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LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The family of Robert Wheeler said they had cut off contact with Christian Gillie, or Chris, as he was known to friends and family, about a year ago.

They said they hadn’t seen or heard from him since, until he showed up to their Johnson Street home early Tuesday morning, armed with a knife.

Gillie’s great grandmother, Francis Carter, said both families have been aware of Gillie’s mental illness for years.

“I knew something was wrong with Chris,” she said. “I told the people that he needed help.”

Lackawanna police said Gillie, 20, killed Robert Wheeler early Tuesday morning at a home off Johnson Street.

In addition to mental illness, Carter said her great grandson had a history of being violent, even against his own mother.

“She was scared of him,” she said. “She told me, she said, ‘Granny, I’m afraid of Chris,’ cause he’s tall, she’s short.”

Chris lived with Francis for about three months. And in that time, he reached out for help.

“He was trying to tell me something was happening, that something was talking in his head, telling him different things,” she said.

Wheeler’s family said they heard from Chris in about a year — until he showed up around 1:45 Tuesday morning. Wheeler’s sister said Chris cut through a screen on the first floor, broke through a window and made his way upstairs.

That’s where he encountered the 23-year-old Wheeler sleeping.

Police said Wheeler was stabbed 25 times, but somehow found the strength to fight off Gillie and warn other members of the family, before he died.

Wheeler’s sister, Amanda, confirmed Carter’s story about Gillie, saying his mental illness was one of the reasons they no longer communicated.

Francis says the family tried to get Gillie the help he needed. And now, she said, it’s too late.

“It made me feel bad because we tried to get help for him,” she said. “I just feel bad for it because they could have given him some help.”

The family of Robert Wheeler is raising money for various purposes. A link to their GoFundMe website is here.

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