Crime

Charges: Man killed Bellingham woman after arguing with ex-girlfriend

Raymond Gilbert, 32, makes his first appearance in Whatcom Superior Court at Whatcom County Jail on Thursday, Aug. 20, in Bellingham. Gilbert is accused of first-degree murder.
Raymond Gilbert, 32, makes his first appearance in Whatcom Superior Court at Whatcom County Jail on Thursday, Aug. 20, in Bellingham. Gilbert is accused of first-degree murder. The Bellingham Herald

Before shooting a woman in the head moments after meeting her son, the accused killer had been arguing with his ex-girlfriend about not being able to see his own child in Arizona, according to court documents.

Raymond Hamilton Gilbert III, 32, is charged with first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree after allegedly shooting Debra Christie, 49, once in the head early Aug. 20.

Gilbert had been texting his ex-girlfriend who is the mother of his child in the hours leading up to the shooting. He was saving money to see them where they live in Arizona, but his ex-girlfriend apparently didn’t want him to and “challenged his role as a parent to his son,” according to charges filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Gilbert got angry and, following those texts, he went to Christie’s apartment in the Viking Village complex, 1015 Otis St., charges say.

Christie’s son gave police an account of what happened next. The 11-year-old, who was inside the apartment, went outside on the deck around 1:20 a.m. and saw his mother with a man. Christie introduced him as “Raymond,” and the son went back inside.

Seconds later, the 11-year-old heard a “pop.” He ran out and found his mom bleeding on the deck.

She died at the scene from one gunshot wound fired from a close distance that struck her by the left eye, according to the Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Exactly how an argument with his ex-girlfriend led Gilbert to Christie’s apartment that night is unclear, and Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran would not give any more details Monday about the texts.

After the shooting, Gilbert told a neighbor that he shot the 11-year-old’s “grandma,” and then fled the scene. At 2:14 a.m., less than an hour later, he texted his close friend Barry Williamson. The text read: “I love you you’ll never have to worry about the bitch again. I promise,” charges say.

Gilbert turned himself in to the Whatcom County Jail at 4:49 a.m.

Gilbert and Christie knew each other through other tenants at the apartment, but it appears Christie did not get along with them. Williamson, the man Gilbert texted after the shooting, had previously lived at the Viking Village complex, and both he and Gilbert frequently visited other friends there.

On Dec. 14, 2014, Christie texted her upstairs neighbor to turn the music down. The neighbor didn’t. She asked again, threatening to call police. Minutes later, Williamson came into her apartment and asked if she knew who she was messing with, and said he could have her killed. She called police, and they issued a no-contact order restraining Williamson from coming within 1,000 feet of Christie, charges say.

Williamson was in the complex again on April 18, 2015, so Christie called police and he was arrested. She called police again on May 31 to report Williamson was there, but police couldn’t find him upon arrival.

This upset Williamson and Gilbert, who was familiar with the situation, charges say.

On Aug., 15, Williamson and Gilbert were drinking alcohol and smoking in the McDonald’s on Samish Way. Both were arrested for criminal trespass, and the warrant was served on Williamson for violating the no-contact order in May.

Gilbert was released from jail on the night of Aug. 18, about a day before Christie’s death.

Williamson, when questioned, said he did not know anything about Gilbert planning to shoot Christie, and that harming her had never been discussed.

Police have not recovered the gun thought to be used in the shooting. They searched Gilbert’s boat in the Bellingham marina, where he lived, and found an ammunition box. There were .32-caliber shell casings in the box — the same brand as the shell casing discovered at the scene of the shooting.

Gilbert had a felony conviction for grand theft auto in Florida from 2010, so he was unable to lawfully possess a firearm in the state of Washington. He had little criminal history in Washington prior to these incidents.

He remains in Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

Reach Wilson Criscione at 360-756-2803 or wilson.criscione@bellinghamherald.com.

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