Administrators at a private university in Illinois are standing by a psychology professor, despite his own admission that he shot and killed his father, mother and teenage sister in 1967.
Officials at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., said they would allow the psychology professor, James St. James, 61, to continue teaching, according to a statement provided to Campus Reform on Tuesday.
The professor’s murderous past came to light in a story published late last month by the Georgetown Advocate, the local newspaper in the town where the killings occurred.
After tracking down and interviewing the atheist professor, reporter Ann Marie Gardner described him as “the picture of a classic hippie: casual air, long pony tail, and a Grateful Dead sticker on his aging pickup truck.”
The crime and trial
The murders of the Wolcott family shocked Georgetown, Texas, then a small town with fewer than 5,000 people.
On Aug. 4, 1967, 15-year-old James Wolcott, sniffed some airplane glue to give himself a “boost,” walked into his family’s living room with a .22 caliber rifle and shot his father twice in the chest. He then walked to his 17-year-old sister Libby’s bedroom and shot her once in the chest. When she fell to the ground, he shot her in the face.
Awakened by the blasts from the rifle, his mother called out from her bedroom. James then shot her twice.
The horrific crime and subsequent trial received a great deal of media coverage for that pre-Internet era. Newspapers across the nation focused on the case for months, reported the Advocate.
Wolcott admitted to the killings at the time, telling Texas Rangers he “hated” his parents and that he planned the murders in advance. A classmate indicated in a pre-trial deposition that Wolcott’s father wouldn’t allow him to go to a peace rally, insisted that he cut his hair, and wouldn’t let him wear his anti-Vietnam buttons.
Doctors diagnosed Wolcott with paranoid schizophrenia made worse by his addiction to airplane glue.
After a short trial, he was found “not guilty” by reason of insanity and spent the following six years in a mental institution.
After emerging from the psych ward in 1974, Wolcott changed his name to James St. James and earned a doctoral degree in psychology. He went on to become a professor of psychology at Millikin University in 1986.
“Millikin University has only recently been made aware of Dr. St James’ past,” said the statement provided to Campus Reform.
“Given the traumatic experiences of his childhood, Dr. St. James’ efforts to build his life and obtain a successful professional career have been remarkable.”
“The university expects Dr. St. James to teach at Millikin this fall.”
Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy told the Chicago Sun-Times “the right thing” would be for St. James to step down for the good of the university.
City Council member Jerry J. Dawson, a former Macon County sheriff, said St. James should have told the school about his past before joining the faculty.
“I look at this from a law enforcement perspective, and I just have a problem with somebody who didn’t disclose this information,” Dawson said. “If I were a parent and my kids were going to Millikin, that’s something I would want to know.”
Millikin student Jentry Grader told the newspaper she still respects St. James and hopes revelations about his dark past will not ruin his life.
“I feel comfortable with him,” Grader said. “And I do not see him as a threat to anyone.”