ELLETTSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — When Kattie Gilliland arrived at her mother’s home on the morning it was destroyed by fire, she checked the cars parked outside, looking for anything that might help her understand what had happened.
She opened a door to a Jeep and found her brother Parker’s two cats inside. Inside another car was a bag of personal items: baby shoes, pictures and $150 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets. There also was a rambling, five-page note written by her mother that, among other things, scolded her husband, Aaron Wampler, for downloading movies off the Internet.
“None of it made sense,” Kattie Gilliland said of the note, “but it all made sense to her.”
On July 10, Carla Gilliland did something that made sense to no one else. She fatally shot her 15-year-old son, Parker Gilliland-Wampler. She set fire to the house northwest of Ellettsville that she had shared with her husband and their son. She then turned the gun on herself. Their deaths have been ruled a murder-suicide by the Monroe County coroner.
“Yeah,” Wampler told The Herald-Times (http://bit.ly/1nZraW0 ). “She kills my son and puts the cats in the Jeep.”
Carla Gilliland’s life began unraveling long before that morning. Her family worried, after an overdose of prescription pills in 2013, that she might end up killing herself one day. But they never imagined she would hurt Parker.
“She would do anything for either of her kids. She would,” Wampler said. “But she was on a path to destruction. We could see it — and she couldn’t.”
Wampler and Kattie Gilliland, his stepdaughter, continue to wonder what could have been done to save a 15-year-old from his mother’s problems.
Many of their questions center on dealings with police and the Indiana Department of Child Services on and shortly after June 27, the day Wampler was jailed after being accused of domestic abuse by Carla Gilliland. That same day, Parker Gilliland-Wampler ended up at his sister’s house, where Parker told a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputy that he didn’t want to go home with his mother, that she had a gun and had talked about using it “to take us both at the same time,” his sister said.
Less than two weeks later, Carla Gilliland did use a firearm to kill her son and herself. Wampler, who works in the press room at The Herald-Times, was not at home at the time of the fire; he learned of it from neighbors who called him at 8:30 a.m. Arriving at the North Red Hill Road residence, he searched the outbuildings, hoping his wife and son were not inside the house as it burned to the ground.
The note found by Kattie Gilliland offered one explanation: “She put in there that she wanted to be free,” Kattie Gilliland said, “and that she took Parker with her so they could both be free.”
Life at the couple’s rural Ellettsville home had been difficult in recent years. While Carla Gilliland struggled with chronic pain and health problems, Wampler focused on getting his son, who would have been a sophomore this fall at Edgewood High School, to college.
“Everyone knew that we were trying to work through it,” Wampler said. “For the last, I don’t know, 10 years, it’s just been sort of ‘I’m just trying to get Parker to college.‘ That was the big goal.”
The morning of June 27, there was a simpler objective: Get Parker Gilliland-Wampler to Lake Monroe for sailing class.
Carla Gilliland wanted to drive, but her husband didn’t think it was safe for her to do so. She had retired from General Electric in 2013 because of health problems. Soon after her retirement, her family said, the former executive board member of the electrical workers union took an overdose of prescription pills in an apparent suicide attempt.
“What escalated it the most was she retired from work. She wasn’t around her friends anymore. She wasn’t around, you know, people that she felt loved her . like she needed to be loved,” Wampler said. “Because me doing things for her wasn’t her feeling loved.”
Carla Gilliland would see therapists, but not for very long, her family said. She had tried a neurostimulator for her back pain, but it didn’t ease her discomfort as much as the oxycodone she had been prescribed, according to Wampler and Kattie Gilliland.
They said Carla Gilliland also was taking large amounts of Benedryl to help her sleep. It wouldn’t put her to sleep, as much as make her, according to Wampler, like “a drunk person who didn’t remember what she did the night before.”
Wampler didn’t want her behind the wheel of a car on June 27.
“She was not to the point of being reckless, but scary driving, and I just didn’t feel safe with her driving Parker,” Wampler said. “So I went with them, just so I could pull the emergency brake if I had to.”
Wampler and Carla Gilliland argued much of the day. She got mad at him for being “jumpy” during the drive. After they dropped off their son, they went to Wal-Mart. He sat in the hot car while she shopped. After an hour, he called her. She said she was talking to friends. Thirty minutes later, she still hadn’t come out. He went into the store, frustrated. More words were exchanged. She wanted him to be happy that she was feeling better and was out shopping.
Wampler left Wal-Mart and called his father for a ride, but Carla Gilliland beat him home. Wampler joked with his father, telling him to park at the end of the driveway because “I don’t want her to shoot us both.”
Wampler wasn’t serious. He had removed all of the guns from the house following Carla Gilliland’s overdose. He also had disabled her father’s .22-caliber rifle by removing the bolt. Wampler said he even had removed knives from the home; butter knives were the only cutlery left.
Wampler said Carla Gilliland ran inside the house and locked the door when she saw him approach. He beat on the door and asked her to let him in. She refused. Wampler isn’t sure how she ended up with a bloody lip and a scrape on her shoulder, because they were “doors apart.” He does remember telling her: “I’m picking up Parker, and I’m not coming home tonight.”
“Second-guessing myself, I should have never said that,” Wampler said. “I should have just done it.”
As soon as Wampler left, Carla Gilliland was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher, crying. She talked about being on disability and how her left leg was partially paralyzed.
“I’ve had a really bad year,” she said to the dispatcher, sobbing. “I’ve had a really bad last few years, and I can’t take it anymore. ...”
Throughout their conversation, the dispatcher pleaded with Carla to calm down.
“OK, wait, wait. You’re going to have to quit crying,” the dispatcher said, according to audio recordings obtained by The Herald-Times. “I cannot understand you and I want to help you, so you need to take a deep breath.”
“Yes, you can.”
“My lip’s bleeding. My lip’s bleeding. My shoulder hurts where he shoved me, and he’s going to go take my son away from me. ...”
Custody of her son was a point of emphasis in two additional telephone calls to law enforcement that afternoon. Wampler was met by a sheriff’s deputy at the lake and taken into custody on the accusation he’d struck his wife. Wampler asked the deputy to call Kattie Gilliland to pick up her brother; she did and took him to her home in Bloomington. When Carla Gilliland found out, she told dispatchers her daughter couldn’t have him.
David Killion, Kattie Gilliland’s fiance, also made three calls to law enforcement on June 27. The last conversation he had with a dispatcher came as Carla Gilliland was ringing the doorbell at her daughter’s home. He feared she was not in a safe state to drive, under the influence of painkillers.
“As far as the domestic issue that happened earlier today, it was a fabricated story that she has made up,” Killion told the dispatcher. “So we are concerned, because we don’t know what she’s capable of.”
Kattie Gilliland said the deputy who responded to her home on June 27 believed he had no choice but to return Parker to his mother. She said Carla Gilliland refused suggestions that Parker stay with another relative or at the county youth shelter while the family situation got sorted out. Sheriff’s department spokesman Capt. Troy Thomas said the deputy did not find Carla Gilliland to be impaired when he spoke with her that day.
“If they had evaluated her, if they had looked at her past, they would have, hopefully, they would have done something then,” Kattie Gilliland said.
That same day, Kattie Gilliland also called the Indiana Department of Child Services, the state agency whose primary mission is to protect children from abuse and neglect. She left a message on an answering machine. A caseworker phoned her the next day and told her she would go out to see Carla Gilliland.
“I felt better when they called me and she said she was going to go out there. I thought that maybe that was good, everything was, you know, getting the ball rolling, and getting Parker either out of there or away from her somewhat,” Kattie Gilliland said.
She also told the caseworker what Parker had said about his mother having a gun.
“I talked to the DCS lady, and she did ask (Carla Gilliland) about the gun, and (Carla Gilliland) said she was just lying about it and she was just mad,” Kattie Gilliland said.
Wampler was released from jail after a 24-hour hold. No charges were filed, but Wampler moved in with his father. He said he didn’t want to risk being accused again of domestic battery by his wife. He, too, made contact with the Department of Child Services. He said the agency arranged with Carla Gilliland for him to see Parker the week of July 4. Wampler said he also talked with an attorney about filing for divorce and seeking custody of Parker.
DCS officials declined to answer questions about the agency’s contact with the family, citing confidentiality laws.
Wampler and Kattie Gilliland said that in the days after June 27, Parker seemed less anxious about being at home with his mother.
“He felt like stuff was starting to get figured out, you know,” Kattie Gilliland said.
Wampler dropped his son off at the North Red Hill Road home during the July 4 weekend. He was supposed to pick him up again the morning of July 10 at 10 a.m.
In the five-page note Kattie Gilliland found in a car that morning, her mother wrote that she had found a gun in her neighbor’s yard. She thought about throwing the gun in a pond, Kattie Gilliland remembers reading, but she decided to “keep it for a good reason.” A gun was stolen from a neighbor’s house during a burglary in April 2013, and Wampler suspects that’s the gun Carla used to take Parker’s life and her own. However, county police could not confirm that.
“I don’t want to make Carla look like a monster, because she wasn’t; she was a loving mother. She was just, something happened, something clicked somewhere or something,” Wampler said. “I don’t know; I can’t fathom what was going through her head.”
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com