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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Parricide - Juvenile (17) - To inherit
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: December 13, 1986
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1969
Victims profile: His father, Robert Gates; his brother, Bobby, 18; his live-in girlfriend, Cheryl Brahm; and his orphaned nephew, Jason, 3
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Columbia County, New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to a term of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Released August 12, 2003

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 human fiber."


After nearly 17 years, Wyley Gates goes free

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 offense."

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 four

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 Court.

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 of Albany.

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 Wyley seriously.''

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 evidence.

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 testimony.

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 said.

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.''




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