DAVID C.L. BAUER For The Telegraph
January 3, 2014
Intuition told Greene County Sheriff Rob McMillen what the facts at first couldn't.
He had no witnesses, one person fighting for her life in a single-vehicle crash, and the other person in the car — her fiance — putting her in the driver's seat.
Seven months later, science told a different story.
On May 2, deputies had responded to the accident on Illinois 108 west of Carrollton. They found both Garry L. Hillis, 36, and his fiancee, Brandy Jo (Knotts) Gilbert, 32, outside of the car. The car, owned by Hillis, had gone off the road, down a steep embankment and hit a utility pole on the passenger side door area.
Hillis said Gilbert had been driving. Gilbert, a 1998 graduate of Carrollton High School who was working as an assistant manager at Moto Mart, died the following day at St. John's Hospital in Springfield.
Something didn't seem right with the story, though, and McMillen and his crew weren't willing to let it go.
“From the beginning, the evidence collected and the fatal injuries sustained by Ms. Gilbert did not point us in the direction that Ms. Gilbert was driving,” he said. “I wanted to wait and make sure that the scientific findings of the evidence collected and of the reconstruction of the accident matched our theory of how the accident occurred, and the seating placements of Mr. Hillis and Ms. Gilbert in the vehicle at the time of the crash.”
Those results prompted authorities to issue an arrest warrant for Hillis on Friday. He turned himself in to authorities Tuesday on charges of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in a death.
“In my 24 years of law enforcement experience, this has been one of the most difficult and challenging investigations that I have been part of” because of the circumstances involved, McMillen said.
Hillis has since been released after posting $5,000 cash on his $50,000 bail.
He is scheduled to appear in Greene Circuit Court at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 3.