• Memories of Becky

    An upbeat child took center stage just hours before tragedy struck
  • An upbeat child took center stage just hours before tragedy struck.
    • email print
  • On the night she was killed in her family's Medford home in 1984, 11-year-old Becky Gilley asked two different friends if she could spend the night with them, but her mother and father refused to allow it. Hours later, along with her parents, Becky was killed by her brother.
    Amber Shields and Becky Kakouris, both now 35, were classmates and friends of Becky Gilley in the fifth grade at Jacksonville Elementary School in April 1984. The girls, all 11 years old, went on field trips and attended birthday parties. They went to Crater Lake together.
    On the night of April 26, the girls were in a spring musical program together. It started at 7 p.m. at the school.
    "Becky had kind of a starring role," Shields remembers. "I was in the chorus."
    Becky sang "Eat It," a spoof by Weird Al Yankovic of Michael Jackson's "Beat It." She had an outgoing personality and star quality, the women remember. After the show, Amber and Becky Gilley thought a sleepover would be fun. Amber asked her father, Larry Smith, of Jacksonville, who was also a teacher at the school.
    "It was a Thursday night," says Shields, now a labor and delivery nurse at Rogue Valley Medical Center. "He said maybe another time."
    Both women also remember Becky asking another classmate, Teri Moody, if she could spend the night with her. But the Gilleys said no. Kakouris says they said it was because Becky hadn't cleaned her room.
    "We both remember that," Kakouris says, "clear as day."
    It struck both girls that Becky very much wanted to spend the night someplace other than home.
    Smith remembers looking at his watch. It was already 8:30, and it was a school night.
    "How about inviting her over on the weekend?" he said.
    For Becky Gilley, the weekend would never come.
    A little after midnight, Billy Gilley Jr., who had a long history of abuse at the hands of his father, Bill, beat Bill and Linda Gilley to death where they slept with an aluminum baseball bat. Linda was in bed, Bill on a couch.
    Billy had put Becky in the upstairs room of their sister Jody, who was 16, and told her to keep Becky there. But Jody didn't, and Becky went downstairs and surprised Billy, who hit her in the head with the bat. Becky died two days later without regaining consciousness.
    Billy Gilley was tried that November and given three life sentences, each with a 30-year minimum, to run consecutively. He appeared Thursday in Judge Ray White's courtroom in Medford after an appeals court granted him a new sentencing hearing.
    If Becky Gilley's parents were disciplining her over the condition of her room, it was one of two punishment issues in the Gilley home that day. Jody Gilley told Kathryn Harrison, the author of "While They Slept," a new book about the murders, that she had skipped school that day, and that there was heightened tension in the house over her punishment when the family sat down for dinner at 6 p.m.
Reader Reaction
      • calendar