Accused Gallery Furniture arsonist leaving Montgomery County

CONROE – A man charged with torching a popular Houston business and terrorizing a Montgomery County woman and her children was again in court on Thursday, making a surprising request.

Robert Carroll Gillham, 66, of Houston was arrested on July 23 by members of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office on burglary charges in connection with an incident involving his alleged forced entry to the home of a former coworker as she and her children tried to hide from him inside her home. Less than a week later, Gillham was charged with first-degree arson in the Gallery Furniture fire.

Click the arrow to view video of the Gallery Furniture fire.
 

On Thursday, Gillham and his attorneys stood before 9th District Court Judge Fred Edwards and requested he be released on personal recognizance, or “PR” bond. That motion was denied.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam said Edwards instead reduced the bond and returned Gillham to Harris County where he faces the more serious charges.

Diepraam said the District Attorney’s Office was pleased with Edwards’ decision.

The victim, who asked only to be identified as Eva during a July interview, once worked with Gillham at Gallery Furniture. Even after he was in jail on multiple charges, Eva was almost too upset to speak about her ordeal a few months earlier.

According to the warrant affidavit, or complaint, MCSO investigators believe Gillham went into the home with the intention of assaulting Eva over money he claimed she owed him.

Despite the typical clinical language of an official document, the picture it paints is a frightening one. It states:

“Robert began screaming and yelling from outside the residence. When Eva would not respond, Robert started beating on the doors and windows in an attempt to get inside the residence. Eva had locked herself and children inside the residence because she was scared of Robert and she knew that he had a history of violence.”

“Robert kicked in a door and entered the residence. He started screaming and yelling at Eva. His arms were raised and his face was red as he was yelling at her. She felt that he was going to hit her. Robert left the residence as Eva was on the phone giving his description to the 911 operator.”

Eva’s home is a two-story with outside stairs leading to a second story porch with an entrance to the home. The complaint states that she and her son were cleaning when Gillham arrived and was exhibiting behavior that frightened them. They ran upstairs to hide from Gillham, but then he ran upstairs and began beating on the door, so they went back downstairs where he allegedly returned and kicked his way inside. One of Eva’s other two children was asleep and the other was still at school, the complaint states. Eva said her husband was also away from home at the time.

The investigator, Don Gay with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, wrote that he spoke with Eva about the money issue and she stated she had borrowed money from him about three years earlier and paid it all back within about a year. However, she told the investigator Gillham would loan money to other Gallery Furniture employees, then demand more money after he was already repaid. Eva said Gillham, a white man, only victimized Hispanic employees and especially women.
She further told the investigator that Gillham was fired from the store because he was causing problems with other employees.

The investigator stated he contacted Gallery Furniture and verified what Eva said about why Gillham was terminated.

“I was advised that after he was fired, Robert started calling other employees and even showing up at some of their residences. Gallery Furniture ended up getting a Permanent Injunction against Robert preventing him from entering the premises of Gallery Furniture, from harassing and/or threatening Gallery Furniture, its employees and customers, and from telephoning, e-mailing or sending written correspondence to Gallery Furniture, its employees and customers while they were at work.”

Gay wrote about going to Eva’s home in South Montgomery County where he interviewed her 10-year-old son. The third-grader witnessed the incident and the report indicates he was able to recount the incident in detail for the officer.

“He said that his mom’s friend, Bob, came over and started knocking on the doors and then kicked on them. He started on the door by the driveway (North side) then went to the door in the yard (East side) then he went to the upstairs door (North side). After trying the upstairs door, he went back to the down stairs and kicked in the door by the driveway (North side) and entered the house.”

Gay showed the boy a photo lineup that included Gillham, and the child identified Gillham as the suspect. Eva did likewise.

According to the complaint, she told the investigator Gillham did something similar to a female co-worker. She also discussed her fears that Gillham would return.

“She said that they were cleaning when Robert showed up. When he started beating on the doors, they went up stairs. When Robert went up stairs, they went down stairs. Then he went down stairs and kicked open the door. She called 911 and he left.”

Eva told Gay that Gillham harassed her repeatedly by phone as well, even after he knew she filed a complaint.

In an ironic twist, after Gillham’s arrest, it came to light that he is also a writer, with a book published in the spring of 2007 entitled, “Think Or Lose Everything …”

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