Family, friends talk about Gilliam, Johnson

PERKINS TWP. Family and neighbors of Gerald B. Gilliam say they are still in disbelief over his deat
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Family and neighbors of Gerald B. Gilliam say they are still in disbelief over his death and what transpired between him and neighbor Andrew D. Johnson.

Elmer Clark, 89, who lives one street west on Beatty Avenue, said he has known "Bill" Johnson for about 15-20 years but only knew recently of disagreements between the neighbors.

"I know they had been arguing for the last three to four weeks," he said. "I was shocked, I didn't think it would come to that."

Johnson, 59, was charged with murder and attempted murder Saturday night after shooting Gilliam in his midsection with a .38-caliber pistol after the two argued, according to police.

Gilliam later died at Firelands Regional Medical Center.

"It seemed like something happened at that moment of time and he just snapped," Clark said. "It surprised the hell out of me to find that out."

Grant Avenue resident Chris Harper said he, too, was shocked.

"He (Johnson) was a good guy," Harper said.

Michelle Drury, a longtime friend of Gilliam's wife, Sandra, described recently wed couple as "pretty crazy about each other."

The Gilliams were married in March, according to Erie County Common Pleas Court records. The Register visited the Gilliam residence Monday, but family declined to comment.

"Of course she's devastated. They had a good relationship, very loving to each other," Drury said.

"I know that Sandy had helped him through a lot in his life," Drury said. "He was getting his life back together with Sandy."

Gilliam had worked for about two and half months doing outside maintenance at Harvey's Market on Columbus Avenue, according to Frank Elhage, part manager of the business.

"He's a hard worker ... he made me laugh. He was a good guy," Elhage said, adding the two would talk about cars and movies together.

Elhage said he also knows Johnson as a regular customer at his convenience and liquor store.

"Every time he sees somebody here he talks to them," Elhage said. "I don't know what happened."

Wesley Smith, Gilliam's stepbrother, knew Johnson from doing car work for him over the years.

"I just don't know why he would have done it at all. Bill was always nice. He pretty much kept to himself," he said. "He never caused any trouble in the neighborhood."

While Gilliam had a history of charges including domestic violence, Smith said he was starting a new leaf.

"My stepbrother, of course, he wasn't always the perfect man. But as he got older, he straightened his life up," he said. "A terrific person if you got to know him."

Other residents and family of Gilliam told the Register police said not to talk about the incident.

Perkins police Chief Tim McClung denied this, saying officers told residents they could choose not to talk to the media if asked.

Toft Funeral Home & Crematory will handle a private service for the Gilliam family. Donations to fund a funeral are being accepted by Sandra Gilliam's employer, The Community at Parkview.

"They don't have very much," Pastor Bill Michaels said. "They don't even know how they're going to pay for the funeral."