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Millikin U. stands by prof who killed family

James St. James is psychology professor chair Department Behavioral Sciences MillikUniversity Downstate Decatur.

James St. James is a psychology professor and chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Millikin University in Downstate Decatur.

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:25AM

Millikin University President Patrick White has urged his students: “Let’s make this a great year.”

In any other year, it might simply be a throw-away piece of campus pep talk.

But White — who wrote to about 2,000 students last week — was exhorting the Millikin community to get behind a self-confessed killer.

It was another public show of support for psychology professor James St. James, who was unmasked this summer as having killed his parents and sister in Texas 46 years ago.

“Millikin University stands by Dr. St. James because he has served Millikin students well for 27 years,” according to the letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The letter signed by White, the interim university president, and the student senate president, reiterates a message the university put out once it learned of St. James’ past: He will be teaching this fall.

A university spokesman declined to comment and pointed to a statement issued earlier this month after a Texas newspaper, the Georgetown Advocate, revealed the professor’s violent past.

Jacqui Rogers, the student senate president, did not respond to a request for comment.

St. James, when reached at home, said: “I have no comment. Thank you, bye.”

St. James confessed to killing his mother, father and older sister in 1967 in their Texas home but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. After the killings, St. James was sent to a state psychiatric hospital, spent six years there for treatment of paranoid schizophrenia and, after his release, changed his name.

While at Rusk State Hospital in Texas, St. James began taking classes from Stephen F. Austin University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1976, two years after his release. That same year, he legally changed his name from Jim Wolcott.

In 1980, St. James obtained a master’s degree in psychology. Six years later, he was hired at Millikin, and in 1988, St. James received his doctorate from the University of Illinois.

Not until the publication of an investigation by the Georgetown newspaper did it become known that he was at Millikin after the killing of his family. It was also news to university officials.

“Given the traumatic experiences of his childhood, his efforts to rebuild his life and obtain a successful professional career have been remarkable,”the letter said.

Though the university has supported St. James, others have questioned having a confessed killer teaching students.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), a Downstate congressman and alumnus of Millikin, said he urged the university to place St. James on leave and look into how he got hired.

Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy said he hoped St. James would resign for the sake of the university.

And Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider issued a statement that said: “If you kill your family, you deserve to never walk free in our society.”

Millikin officials acknowledge there are “differing opinions about this issue.”

“We respect those differences,” the letter states. “We are a university, not a uniformity; we bring people together, but do not demand everyone think alike.”


Twitter: @schlikerman

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