Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man neighbors say intentionally burned down a home with a tiki torch on the Fourth of July, leaving the residents — also tenants of Dill’s — homeless and without clothing or any of their other possessions.
Deputies arrested 59-year-old Gary Lee Dill last Friday after a brief standoff involving SWAT and a DPS helicopter. Dill is charged with a first-degree felony count of arson in connection with the blaze, which neighbors say he started after a financial dispute with the residents.
Thomasina Grillo rented the 4-bedroom home on County Road 270 in Leander from Dill. Grillo admitted that there had been a dispute with Dill over money, but said Dill’s actions placed her family in mortal danger and resulted in the loss of virtually all of the family’s possessions.
“My neighbors saw that, with a tiki torch in hand, Mr. Dill put clothes and paper on the porch and lit it on fire knowing there were seven people in the house,” she said. “He also set off the water to the house so there was no way for us to fight the fire.”
Neighbors helped the seven tenants escape from the fire without injury via the back porch as flames came rolling through the front door, engulfing the house in a matter of minutes.
Firefighters fought the fire from 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning. Now, Grillo says she is left with nothing but charred rubble.
“We lost everything, save for the clothes on our backs,” she said. “This is a major tragedy. I’ve never experienced a fire before but it was absolutely horrific.”
Grillo also said she was thankful for the help from Red Cross and the community she and her family and friends are receiving.
“We have nothing left but we are grateful for Red Cross,” she said. “They are fantastic. We are seeking out any assistance we can right now.”
Dill has had at least 14 run-ins with the law since 2002, online records show, including arrests for assault and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Dill pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of deadly conduct and assault causing bodily injury family violence in 2017 and served short jail sentences with no fines in those two cases. He is currently being held in the Williamson County Jail.