On Dec. 13, 1986 four dead bodies were found in the home
of Robert Gates: businessman Gates; his older son, Bobby, age 19; his
live-in girlfriend, Cheryl Brahm; and his orphaned nephew, Jason, 3.
Immediately suspected was Gates's younger son, Wyley, 17,
a computer whiz and salutatorian of his class, but a cold, distant,
seemingly emotionless youth. Wyley was taken into custody, and it
developed that he had discussed plans to commit the murders and rob the
family home with at least one close friend, Damian Rossney. The police
were so convinced of Wyley's guilt that they were lackadaisical about
assembling evidence, according to the author.
As a result, Wyley and Damian, tried separately, were
acquitted of murder but found guilty of conspiracy and imprisoned. Gelb
leaves little doubt that he believes Wyley is the killer and concludes
that the young man has "a fundamental soullessness, a basic lack of
After nearly 17 years, Wyley Gates
Albany Times Union
August 12, 2003
Wyley Gates, the honors student who masterminded a
1986 plot to kill four family members, walked out of prison Monday with
a college degree and a job in New York City.
After nearly 17 years, Gates, 34, was released from
the custody of the Department of Correctional Services at 10 a.m. at the
Buffalo bus station, said department spokeswoman Linda Foglia. He spent
the last several years at Collins Correctional Facility in Erie County.
Parole officials have approved Gates' residence in
New York City and employment as a clerk in a law firm. He will remain
under parole supervision for about eight years.
Wiley Gates (4)
As a teen in the 1980's, Wiley
Gates calculately murdered his father, brother, 3-year-old cousin and
father's girlfriend. Thirteen years later, he failed to show up for two
consecutive parole hearings, and was denied denied early release. He's
serving an eight-and-a-third to 25-year sentence for conspiracy in the
Columbia County murders. His accomplice, Damian Rossney, is up for a
parole hearing next month.
Tom Grant, spokesman for the
Division of Parole, said Gates, a prisoner at Collins Correctional
Facility in Erie County, will remain behind bars until at least Feb.
2001, when he is eligible to again petition for parole. "Your
indifference to human life demonstrates that you present a serious
threat to community safety and welfare," the board said in a notice
to Gates. "Release would also deprecate the seriousness of your
Gates was a 17-year-old honors
student in 1986 when he confessed to killing his father, brother, 3-year-old
cousin and the father's girlfriend. At trial, Gates was convicted of
conspiracy to murder his father and sentenced by Columbia County Judge
John G. Leaman to the maximum sentence. Gates first became eligible for
parole in 1995.
Gates, now 29, will have another
opportunity to seek parole in two years. If the Parole Board continues
to deny release, Gates will remain in prison until Aug. 7, 2003. A co-defendant,
Damian Rossney, was convicted of conspiracy and criminal facilitation
after evidence showed he helped plot the murders and hid the murder
weapon. Rossney, who is serving a term of 8 1/3 to 25 years in
Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, is slated for a
parole hearing next month. Without parole, Rossney is slated for release
July 10, 2005.
2 teen-agers held in murders of
The New York Times
January 31, 1987
A high school honors student accused of
murdering four members of his household, and a classmate charged
with helping him, were arraigned yesterday in Columbia County
The two are charged with eight second-degree murder
counts, two for each victim, and related crimes.
The honor student, Wyley Gates, 17 years old, and
Damian Rossney, 16, who authorities say conspired with Mr. Gates to kill
his family, were arraigned in separate hearings.
Columbia County District Attorney Eugene Keeler said
the two teen-agers conspired for two months before the slayings of Mr.
Gates's father, Robert Gates Sr., 39; his brother, Robert Gates Jr., 19;
cousin Jason Gates, 3, and his father's companion, Cheryl Brahm, 36.
Mr. Gates, already being held without bail, was sent
back to the Columbia County Jail after his three-minute hearing before
Judge John J. Leaman of County Court in this town about 50 miles south
Mr. Rossney was ordered held in $650,000 bail.
If convicted of the murder charges, both youths could
be sentenced to 25 years to life for each count.
Small Town Has Sequel To Its 'Trial of Century'
By Nick ravo - The New York Times
December 7, 1988
It was called ''the trial of the century'' here in
Columbia County. A shy 17-year-old computer wizard, Wyley Gates,
admitted to shooting his father, his father's girlfriend, his brother
and a 3-year-old cousin. A jury then acquitted the youth of murder
charges, citing shoddy police work and a coerced confession.
Now, 14 months later, people throughout the Hudson
Valley are closely watching an equally strange sequel. This time, the
issue is whether a second jury will convict a friend of Mr. Gates, 18-year-old
Damian Rossney of Ossining, as an accomplice to the murders.
To do so, however, the jurors will have to find that
Mr. Gates actually was the killer. And as the case has been rerun here
at the Columbia County Courthouse, so have the questions, the
frustrations and the outrage that followed the first trial.
''This whole case has really made me wonder about the
system,'' said Blanche ''Betty'' Brorup, who knew the victims well and
works as the Town Clerk in nearby Canaan, where the murders took place.
''You got four people dead with bullets in them, and nobody found guilty
of the murder. It's sad.''
Gates Is in Prison
The jury was in its second day of deliberations today.
Mr. Rossney, who had personal problems and two years ago moved upstate
to live with relatives in Chatham, a tiny town next to Canaan, is
charged with helping plan two of the murders, as well as knowing about
and covering up the crime. Free on a $360,000 bond posted by family and
friends, Mr. Rossney faces two counts of second-degree murder,
conspiracy, criminal facilitation and hindering prosecution. Each second-degree
murder charge carries a prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Mr. Gates, who was convicted only of conspiracy
charges in connection with the killings, is serving a sentence of 8Y
years to 25 years at the state prison in Elmira.
In closing arguments Monday, Special District
Attorney Nancy D. Snyder told a jury of seven men and five women in
Columbia County Court that Mr. Rossney had helped steal the pistol used
in the killings. She also said the youth, often described as quiet and
extremely bright, had helped plan the crime and hidden the murder weapon
in his home.
''Damian Rossney knew that Wyley Gates wanted his
father killed, and he assisted him,'' she said.
The defense lawyer, Robert L. Adams, in his closing
arguments, told jurors that Mr. Rossney had believed that Mr. Gates was
joking about wanting to kill his father, had never intended to become
involved in a murder and had hidden the weapon to protect himself - not
Mr. Gates. ''It's all about frame of mind,'' he said. ''No one took
Lawyer Cites Unusual Situation
Mr. Rossney, who wore a navy blazer, gray slacks and
cordovan penny loafers as he wandered the courthouse hallways during
deliberations today, took the stand last week during the trial here in
the Columbia County seat, about 40 miles south of Albany. He blamed Mr.
Gates for the murders. Mr. Gates has not testified in either trial.
Mr. Adams said that he had allowed his client to
testify because a defense emphasizing that no one has been found guilty
of the murders would probably prove unsuccessful. He added, though, that
Mr. Gates's acquittal still weakens the case against Mr. Rossney because
prosecutors are still prevented from using Mr. Gates's confession as
He also said that it would be difficult to comprehend
a situation in which one jury acquitted a confessed killer because his
rights were violated, but another jury convicted someone else of murder
even though that person did not pull the trigger. ''It is an unusual
case in that regard,'' he said.
Investigators believed they had solved the case less
than a week after the bodies of Robert Gates Sr., 39; his girlfriend,
Cheryl Brahm, 36; Wyley Gates's brother, Robert Jr., 19, and Wyley's
cousin, Jason Gates, 3, were found on Dec. 13, 1986, in the home of
Robert Gates Sr. They announced that Mr. Gates had confessed to the
killings, which they said were committed to collect a $100,000
inheritance. Along with Mr. Rossney, another classmate, Miles McDonald
of Chatham, was arrested as an accomplice. They were accused of plotting
the slayings in the computer room of the local high school. Mr. McDonald,
however, received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his
Some Evidence Not Preserved
During Mr. Gates's trial last fall, though, it became
apparent that the prosecution's case rested on a confession consisting
of rough notes and recollections obtained by the Sheriff's Department
and the state police without the presence of Mr. Gates's lawyer.
Moreover, the weapon was not dusted for fingerprints,
Mr. Gates's clothing was not tested for gunpowder residue and a test of
blood found on the gun provided inconclusive results.
Around Columbia County, though, most residents do not
blame investigators for the acquittal. ''It was the jury - most people
wonder how a jury could come back with a verdict like that,'' Ms. Brorup
As for the Rossney trial, Mr. Brorup said the area's
feelings remain bruised but are healing. ''People just want it to be
done and over with,'' she said. ''They'll be upset if he gets off - but
they won't be surprised.''