Millikin University is facing a challenging controversy over one of its faculty, Professor James St. James. It turns out that James St. James is not his original name which was James Gordon Wolcott. The problem is that Wolcott is a former state mental patient who killed his family in 1967. St. James effectively reinvented himself with remarkable (and commendable) success — ultimately not just teaching but heading the university’s Department of Behavioral Sciences. The university is standing by him as people call for his removal from the faculty.
St. James has been teaching at Millikin since 1986. It does not appear that he revealed his history to the school since the university stated in a release that “Millikin University has only recently been made aware of Dr. St. James’ past.” Such omissions can be used for disciplinary action even termination, but such cases remain rare absent falsification of academic credentials.
St. James is not accused of lying about his credentials or even lying about his past. He just did not tell people about his criminal acts as a teenager. St. James, who is now 61, was only 15 when he shot and killed his father, Gordon Wolcott; his mother Elizabeth Wolcott and his sister, 17-year-old Elizabeth Wolcott. He was high on sniffing glue at the time. St. James was a brilliant but disturbed teenager who grabbed a .22-caliber rifle, walked into the living room and shot his father while he was reading. He then shot his sister and then his mother.
He was found not guilty by reason of insanity in in 1968 and sent to Rusk State Hospital. He was released six years later in 1974 and appears to have put his life together. He was given help by the fact that he could inherit his parents’ estate and even draw a monthly stipend from his father’s pension fund. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a PhD. As a professor, he is given high reviews for his classes.
The university has resisted calls for his resignation or termination: “Given the traumatic experiences of his childhood, Dr. St. James’ efforts to rebuild his life and obtain a successful professional career have been remarkable. The University expects Dr. St. James to teach at Millikin this fall.”
The university’s position shows great sensitivity and understanding. St. James was found not guilty of these crimes. He went on to not only be declared sane but to achieve an extraordinary level of achievement. These killings were truly horrific but they were committed by a child high on airplane glue who had a history of mental illness. His ability to turn around his life is an amazing story. It is not a happy story to be sure. It begins with the killing of a family in a blood-soaked rage. Yet, it is a story of redemption. His decision to study psychology and behavioral science is quite telling. He appears to have worked hard to understand what motivates a person, like himself, to do unspeakable things. Perhaps his academic training was part of his personal recovery.
The university could have used the failure to disclose to discipline St. James but chose to see the man as he is now rather than what he was as a child. In the end, there is no punishment to fit this crime. Yet, St. James has built a worthy and meaningful life from the ashes of tragedy in his youth. That in itself is quite a lesson.
Source: Daily Mail
61 thoughts on “Millikin University Professor Under Fire After Discovery That He Is A Former Mental Hospital Patient Who Killed His Family”
SIX doctors evaluated Wolcott and found him not responsible for his actions due to insanity. If you bother to read about undiagnosed teen paranoid schizophrenia, (see NAMH website), you will find that it is often overlooked as typical teen “acting out”. Isolation, irritability, sleeping more, change of friends are symptoms. Substance abuse and suicidal thoughts/actions are common in schizophrenics. Auditory hallucinations and feeling that people are out to “get them” are typical – both present in Wolcott’s case. And while most schizophrenics are not violent, paranoid schizophrenics, if they do commit violence, tend to do so against family members and commit it in the home. Stop second-guessing the experts who oversaw his treatment and were actually aware of all the facts – which none of us are, not even the reporters, as witnesses are dead and medical records have been destroyed.
Six years in treatment would have been ample time for a teen to learn how to manage his condition, work through his feelings and claim responsibility for his family’s deaths, and decide how to build a new life that honors their memory while making sure there is never a repeat of the violence that took them. I would say he has done those things, managing his illness, becoming a college professor like his father, making it his life’s work to understand the mind and what can cause mental processes to go terribly wrong, keeping a very structured, low-stress life-style, not dwelling on the past, and maybe most telling, not marrying or having a family. He has been attoning all along in his own personal ways, and staying out of all trouble, and THAT is a great success story. But this story served absolutely no purpose, no public good except to grab headlines for a two bit rag in TX with a DA and reporters looking to make a splash, and their biased handling of the story has way too many thinking they know better now, 46 years later and without all the facts, than the Drs, the Jury and the prosecutor.
The State of TX released Wolcott in 1974 and dropped the remaining charges against him. He went on to finish college and legally change his name before moving to IL. In 2013, just because some muckrakers decided to run a sensational story exposing his horrific past, he does not owe them or any ambulance-chasers any explanations or tear-stained confessions. I hope there are serious repercussions for the Georgetown Advocate, which not only has deleted all postings criticizing the publishing of the articles, but has revised the content considerably over the past couple of weeks, deleting statements and adding excuses and explanations for their motives. They also have posted links to numerous sites that picked up the story, but refuse links to those articles that question their ethics in running it. That’s Texas for ya!
beth jones wrote: ” not marrying or having a family…”
This is a positive for you? Sounds like avoiding accountability and the typical solitary life of a psychopath to me.
I still think the report was a very good thing, and that Dr. St. James should write a book. How intriguing a book it would be, a psychologist analyzing himself and telling of his life from the murders up to the present. It would be a way for him to give back to the community.
This article is disingenuous. Wolcott/St. James was found not guilty solely by reason of insanity. That means, he did the act(s) which constitute the crime, but did not have the requisite mental state. That he did not have the requisite mental state was due to his voluntary ingestion of glue. If this as a “tragedy”, it is a tragedy only to his victims and one of his own making.
I cannot understand the logic which holds that learning trumps mass murder.
Wow. Common sense has truly departed our society. I’m sure this man’s father, mother, and sister are all quite proud of everything he’s accomplished, especially after so much HE went through
You guys may want to look up the case of Chuck Limbrick, of Colorado. His story was featured on the series Lt. Joe Kenda, Homicide Hunter on the Discovery ID channel, with the title Shot Through the Heart. Lt. Kenda said that of all the 400 or so homicides he solved in his career, Chuck Limbrick was the youngest person he ever sent to prison for life. Here is a short YouTube preview of the program (the full length version can be purchased):
The Governor first commuted Limbrick’s sentence, and then granted clemency. Limbrick was released in 2011 after serving almost 23 years. He has become a gospel singer with at least one studio-recorded album.
The prosecutor and several others seem to be in favor of his release. I cannot recall reading or hearing Lt. Joe Kenda’s opinion. After all, he was the one who saw Limbrick’s mother laying in a pool of blood.
I really don’t know how to feel about this man. but he should not be teaching or advising our youth. I just don’t get why is at the university. Maybe the university thought it was cool to have him on staff. Right boys!!
Robert, if that is indeed what your name is, you need to think a whole lot more deeply than your disparagement of Mrs. Gardner indicates you have. This is not a loaf of bread that was stolen (as you compared Jean Valjean being pursued by the relentless Javert to this case) but three very precious lives that were taken brutally – two of those lives having created this man, Jim Wlcott who is not Dr. St. James. There is a HUGE difference between stealing a loaf of bread for your starving family and viciously attacking and taking the lives of each of your family members!! If there has been true repentance in his heart, it would aid the psychological sciences if this professor would now make that repentance known. As is represented in this forum, there would be ample forgiveness for a truly repentant heart. But the question remains – is that heart repentant or merely getting on with its own life as if nothing heinous ever happened in the past by his own hand. To witness brokenness rather than self-assertion is a very healing and cleansing experience. To witness pretense and a unwillingness to acknowledge this horrible lapse in a person’s life is to foster suspicion, fear, and even anger.
Fran wrote: “If there has been true repentance in his heart, it would aid the psychological sciences if this professor would now make that repentance known. As is represented in this forum, there would be ample forgiveness for a truly repentant heart. But the question remains – is that heart repentant or merely getting on with its own life as if nothing heinous ever happened in the past by his own hand. To witness brokenness rather than self-assertion is a very healing and cleansing experience. To witness pretense and a unwillingness to acknowledge this horrible lapse in a person’s life is to foster suspicion, fear, and even anger.”
Fran, excellent comment and analysis. You truly spoke for me here.
I find this case truly fascinating. Dr. St. James could truly help us understand situations like this much better, especially with his expertise being in psychology. I think now he should write a book about it all, from the perspective of psychology. He would become a millionaire easily doing that, and the world would be better off because we will gain some better understanding of cases like this one. Imagine how many people would want to read a book from a professor of behavioral psychology who had murdered his family as a child. I think Ann Marie Gardner did him a big favor by bringing this to light. He should keep his job and start writing that book. His classes probably will be packed full from now on.
I did not realize this started out in the national Enquirer. If so. Robert, objective and journalist are 2 words not usually associated with that tabloid.
Robert Wallis your letter was superb in making its case. So many in this country are tied to the notion of revenge and so few to redemption. Though some here pretend they are indignant about the murder of Professor St. James family by him, to my mind it is simple bloodlist on their part and a refusal to accept his legal punishment. By all accounts the man’s psychotic pathology has been dealt with. Is it so hard to believe that psychosis can actually be treated and that a 16 year old in a psychotic state could commit heinous crimes? Those who scoff at St. James rehabilitation would feel much more satisfied if he had been put to death. This should cause them to look into their own innerthoughts before they cast stones at others.
The Georgetown Advocate, a small fundamentalist Christian give-away paper isn’t too concerned about fairness or hearing differing opinions. Mrs. Gardner seems to be an anomaly as her journalistic credentials are a background in graphic design and being a 43 year old Army wife with a toddler. Since they declined to post my response, I’ll share it here. This is addressed to Mrs. Gardner.
“This has been one of the most odious hack jobs of journalism I have seen in my 65 years. Your summation was unwarranted opinionated tripe and sermonizing.
Whatever happened that night 46 years ago was horrific; patricide, matricide, and fratricide. Paranoid schizophrenia and glue sniffing with those murders would lead any jury to understand that he was insane and rightly found him so. Six years in treatment and yes, he was released a free man. Any additional punishments he carries is of his own devising and not the place of anyone else.
You rightly point out that he had to leave everything he knew behind in order to build a new life because he knew it would be impossible to remain where he was. Yes, he killed his family, but it also killed all ties with family, friends, and the larger concept of home. It was a tragic event, no one disputes that.
He changed his name, moved away, and rebuilt his life. Keep in mind he had undergone extensive therapy and had to confront the demons of what he had done and deal with that. To his credit, he succeeded well and founded an excellent academic career.
What is unfortunate out of this continuing tragedy was your pursuit of him, much like Javert’s pursuit of Jean Valjean. The question of whatever happened to him is a question that quite frankly didn’t need to be answered as any fool would have recognized that unearthing him at this late date would serve no practical use except to titillate your local readers of National Enquirer, and in the end possibly destroy whatever he had become. Reading the furor and uproar on a national scale is sickening. Did you have any conception the further damage this research of yours could cause? All for the sake of supposed putting old legends to rest?
No, this was a hatchet job from the get-go. You build a reasonable case that He was rehabilitated, he recovered, became a responsible and model citizen, and became a respected teacher of fine accomplishments. Then your summation reverts to pandering of the lowest sort and engages in yellow journalism by tossing a concrete block through the edifice you had created by casting doubt about his stability and that this 60ish man could become a ravening killer at the drop of a hat.
The mayor of Decatur, IL, is pressuring the university to let him go, and he is now under scrutiny and abuse that is completely inappropriate. It is as though you are advocating to have this man branded on the forehead, stripped naked, and driven through the streets to become a pariah for evermore. If anyone should resign their position, madam, is it you who should slink away for abusing your position as an objective journalist and becoming a demagogue of the worst sort pandering to the fears and base emotions of your readers. You should be embarrassed and ashamed.”
Juvelines are prosecuted as such, with records guarded, so they can have a second chance. This is what we ask of them, and this is what James did. He has proven he is productive and now safe to be around. From a Millikin Grad, 1979.
TLB wrote: “Juvelines are prosecuted as such, with records guarded, so they can have a second chance. This is what we ask of them, and this is what James did.”
I think he was tried as an adult, not a juvenile.
Zari: Obviously, I was not at the trial. However, one recent account indicates that multiple psychiatrists and doctors testified and they all provided opinions supporting the “not guilty by reason of insanity” defense. The prosecution did not provide any expert testimony to the contrary. Texas had one of the less generous criteria for finding the defense true that many other states. As to his current unwillingness to discuss it, frankly, I would be more concerned about the mental health of someone who did want to discuss such a past with any stranger who raised the subject.
Mitsy–there’s no evidence that he lied or concealed anything. there isn’t necessarily any question in the hiring process about past felonies. he’s somehow managed to teach for years without incident—that more than what he did many years a ago is better indication of his suitability to be in a classroom. You’d probably be surprised if you knew the complete history of everyone who ever taught you or any children you might have.
I think he should be ousted. At the very least, he LIED on his records because somewhere there is a question about criminal convictions. The fact that he changed his name does not change his past. I would not want him teaching my kids. Most universities will fire (even tenured) professors for lying on resumes. There should not be any 2nd chances for murderers. Sorry but I don’t give the guy a pass. He should be fired.
Having just read the complete news article, these additional facts make me very much doubt the “redemption” meme.
To every one of the reporter’s questions, St. James answered only: “that was a long time ago…I don’t want to go there… I don’t really remember”.
However, in his confession to police, Wolcott “went on to describe each of the shootings in detail. Although there are variations of the subsequent exchange, court and police reports agree that James indicated that he hated his parents, giving motive to his actions.”
Wolcott “later admitted that he had decided to kill them a week prior and had made a plan the night before.” After the killings, “he hid the rifle in the attic crawlspace above the closet in his bedroom.” This screams premeditation to me, not insanity or psychotic break.
For trial, the court determined that the then 16-year old Wolcott was competent to stand trial as an adult.
There was no “proof” except Wolcott’s claims “that he had known for some time he was mentally ill.” During pre-trial medical evaluations, he claimed to have considered suicide the previous winter, stating that he was “just bored with it all.” According to court transcripts, Wolcott began sniffing airplane glue several months prior to the crime, contributing to what his doctors diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. However, prior to August 5, according to the family doctor, Wolcott had no history of mental illness, nor did anyone in his family. Nor was there any substantiation that Wolcott “considered suicide” or that he ever “sniffed airplane glue”.
He sounds like he’d be an interesting instructor, but first I’d want to check the classroom for the absence of glue.
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