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Bond denied for retired special education teacher who allegedly killed terminally ill husband in murder-suicide pact

Ellen W. Gilland appearing in court on Friday (image via Twitter screenshot)

Ellen W. Gilland appearing in court on Friday (image via Twitter screenshot)

Ellen Gilland, the 76-year-old Florida woman who authorities say shot and killed her terminally ill husband as part of a murder-suicide pact, appeared in court Friday where a judge refused her request to be released on bond. Judge Karen Foxman said that Gilland’s admitted actions constituted “premeditated murder” in a public setting, reasoning that this presented a danger to the public if she were to be released.

Gilland is facing multiple felony charges, including first-degree premeditated murder and three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill in connection with the death of 77-year-old Jerry Gilland.

Judge Foxman first denied bond for Gilland last month based on the evidence and nature of the charges against her.

Evidence was revealed at the hearing as defense attorneys called three witnesses to argue why Gilland should be released on bond – a psychiatrist and two of Gilland’s nieces. Meanwhile, prosecutors only called a single witness, the Daytona Beach Police detective in charge of Gilland’s case.

The Psychiatrist

During the hearing, the defense called a psychiatrist who interviewed Gilland after her arrest and said he did not believe that she was a serious danger to herself or others. The psychiatrist testified that Gilland had “zero previous legal history” and no previous entanglements with law enforcement dating back to her youth. He further noted that there was nothing to indicate she was still suffering from the mental instability she had been experiencing following her husband’s terminal diagnosis.

When prosecutors argued that she had pointed the loaded weapon at nurses and later fired the handgun when police were in the room, the psychiatrist said that her major depressive episode – which was triggered by her husband’s terminal illness –  had passed.

Family Members

Kathleen Sullivan-Cockrel, Gilland’s niece, testified during the hearing that her aunt was a retired special education teacher who would be welcome to reside with her and her husband in their home were she to be granted bond. Sullivan-Cockrel also said that she had spoken with Jerry Gilland’s family who were very supportive of Gilland being granted pretrial release, saying they held “no animosity” towards her for killing her husband

Beatrice Timme, also Gilland’s niece, said she’d known Gilland and her husband nearly her entire life, that they had a “loving relationship,” and she had never known either of the two of them to be violent toward the other. Timme also said that if Gilland were granted release, she would voluntarily stay with her aunt and make sure there were no firearms in the home and ensure she made it to all of her court dates.

The Detective

Prosecutors then called the Daytona Beach Police agent in charge of Gilland’s case who said he had reviewed the body camera footage in which Gilland allegedly admitted to planning and shooting her husband to death. He also noted that there was a box with 45 live rounds remaining in the hospital room and more than 100 live rounds in her vehicle.

The detective further said that Jerry’s condition the day of the shooting only showed high blood pressure, but no other signs of trauma or medical issues. He testified that the registered nurse told him that Jerry never indicated that he was contemplating taking his own life or that he believed he would be dying suddenly in the near future. That nurse further told police that when he went to investigate the sound of the loud bang coming from inside Jerry’s room, Gilland pointed the gun at him and threatened to shoot him if he did not leave.

When police initially entered the room, the detective said officers could be heard saying that Gilland pointed the gun “directly” at them. They then exited the room and waited for the SWAT team to arrive.

SWAT made entry into the room three hours later, at approximately 3:05 p.m., the detective said. The team deployed a flash-bang grenade into the room and attempted to fire “less lethal” ammunition at Gilland, but missed twice. Gilland then fired one shot from the revolver that went into the ceiling panel “above where the SWAT team was standing,” the detective said.

When cross-examined by the defense, the detective said he was aware of a plan for Gilland and her husband to take their own lives and that Jerry Gilland was the one who loaded the gun that took his life. The detective further said that Gilland was the one that held the gun to her husband’s head while Jerry held her wrist because he did not have the dexterity to do it himself.

The detective also clarified that he believed the bullet that hit the ceiling was intended for the officers who entered the room.

The defense ended the hearing by requesting a bond of $50,000 under the condition that she remain with her family and not have access to any firearms. He emphasized she had spent nearly her entire life in the area, was high school sweethearts with Jerry before his death, had no history of violence, and was not a threat to herself or the community.

Prosecutors said that Gilland admitted to purchasing the gun and ammunition and told police that she had planned and shot her husband. Admitting that she clearly “loved her husband,” prosecutors described the case as “troubling,” but said that she posed a direct threat to everyone in the hospital when she brought and discharged a loaded weapon inside a full hospital, then pointed the gun at several others before discharging it again.

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The Ruling

“This is extremely sympathetic,” the judge said at the end of the hearing, but “the law in the state of Florida does not allow for a mercy killing.”

“I don’t get to question the law,” Judge Foxman said, calling Gilland’s actions a clear case of “premeditated murder.” Foxman said that all of the evidence – including Gilland’s own admission – showed that she planned and took the life of another human being that led to a multi-hour standoff where several other lives were endangered by her actions.

Judge Foxman also highlighted the fact that Gilland could have checked Jerry out of the hospital rather than killing him in such a public manner before declaring that she was denying the motion for bond.

Gilland is scheduled to appear for her arraignment before Judge Foxman on Feb. 14.


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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.