Yablonski killer seeks prison release again

December 6, 2013
Paul Gilly, 1973

The lone survivor of a trio of assassins hired in 1969 to murder Joseph “Jock” Yablonski, a Washington County reform candidate for president of United Mine Workers of America, is seeking to be released from prison because his commitment order does not exist in the state prison system.

Paul Gilly, now 80, a triggerman in the killing of Yablonski and the Clarksville man’s wife and daughter, Wednesday petitioned Washington County Court, asking for a hearing seeking the “release of one who is detained unlawfully,” his hand-printed court document states.

Gilly was convicted in 1972 along with Aubran W. “Buddy” Martin and Claude Vealey of accepting money to kill Yablonski, 59. Also killed at his stone mansion were Margaret Yablonski, 59, and their daughter, Charlotte, 20. Martin, who drove the getaway car, died of cancer in 1991 and Vealey died of the same disease eight years later in prison.

The case would also secure the conviction of UMW President W.A. “Tony” Boyle for ordering the death of Yablonski, who lost the race against Boyle and later asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the election.

UMW official Gerald Prater also was convicted of paying the assassins in the murder plot.

Gilly also petitioned the court in 2011 to be released after he calculated he should have been released from prison in 1990, even though he was sentenced to three life terms. It did not appear the court took up that petition.

Washington County Clerk of Courts Barbara Gibbs said she forwarded Gilly’s latest petition to the court and district attorney, and that it would be up to a judge to determine if it should be heard.

The Yablonski trial records fill many boxes, and had once disappeared from county storage only to eventually turn up in the district attorney’s office. Gibbs said the files on one of the biggest stories of the 20th century in Washington County should be in the court’s archives. Gilly’s commitment order should be part of that record.

Gilly, who considers himself a pauper and represents himself in the petition, turned to Washington County Court after being denied an open-records request for his commitment records by state Department of Corrections, the record shows.

Chase M. Defelice, an attorney for the department, replied to Gilly’s request stating the order is not in the custody or control of the prison system.

Gilly is an inmate at State Correctional Institution at Albion in Erie County.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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