Professor Who Killed His Family Set to Keep Job

Friday, 09 Aug 2013 03:15 PM

By Lisa Barron

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A well-respected psychology professor at Illinois' Millikin University is set to keep his job despite the revelation that he murdered his family nearly half a century ago.

Dr. James St. James, then a 15-year-old living in Texas named James Wolcott, shot and killed his father, mother, and older sister with a .22 caliber rifle, The Georgetown Advocate revealed last month.

Georgetown is the Austin suburb where the killings took place in 1967. Reporters for the paper wondered what had happened to Wolcott and traced him to Millikin.

At his trial, Wolcott was declared not guilty by reason of insanity after being diagnosed with a mental illness. He reportedly told authorities the he hated his family and had been sniffing airplane glue for weeks before he fired the shots.

After being detained in a psychiatric hospital for six years, Wolcott had a new trial and was declared mentally stable. He changed his last name to St. James and studied psychology, eventually earning a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

After the news of the Millikin department chair's real identity broke, the university stood by him, saying in a statement that it only recently learned about the murders and expect St. James to continue teaching this fall.

"Given the traumatic experiences of his childhood, Dr. St. James' efforts to rebuild his life and obtain a successful professional career have been remarkable," said the school.

Several alumnae have supported the move, with one alumna defending her former professor in a Daily Beast column.

"Every day that he spends helping educate and research that which caused him to take his family's life is a way of remembering them and making sure that no one does what he once did," wrote Joelle Charbonneau.

But Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois, a Milliken alumnus, has stated his opposition to St. James' continued affiliation with the school, telling the Chicago Sun Times, he was concerned about protecting the reputation of his alma mater.

"I'm a parent of a 16-year-old daughter who'll have to choose a school in a few years. If my daughter said she wanted to be a psych major at Millikin, I hate to say, I'd have some concern," he said.

When the newspaper reached St. James at his home in Decatur, Illinois, he said, "The University has issued a statement and that will have to do."

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