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Downstate college stands by professor tied to 1967 killings

Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 10:59 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — An award-winning psychology professor and the central Illinois university where he works say he will continue to teach there despite a news report that he was institutionalized as a teenager after killing three family members in Texas.

A story last week in a Texas newspaper, the Georgetown Advocate, identified Millikin University professor James St. James as the person who in 1967 fatally shot his father, mother and teenage sister in the family's home.

According to court records cited by the newspaper, the 15-year-old, then named James Wolcott, sniffed airplane glue before the shooting and had paranoid schizophrenia. Jurors found the boy not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered him held in a state hospital until he became sane. Six years later, he was released.

St. James went on to earn a doctorate in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, according to his biography on the Millikin website. He joined the faculty in 1986 and later became a department chair at the private college with about 2,380 students.

A quest by the suburban Austin, Texas, newspaper to find Wolcott led reporters to a man with a different name living in Decatur, where he'd built a career as a respected teacher and researcher.

A statement released Thursday by Millikin defended the chair of its Behavioral Sciences Department. Only recently, the statement said, did Millikin learn of the past of the man who once won a Teaching Excellence and Leadership Award.

"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 statement said. "The university expects Dr. St. James to teach at Millikin this fall."

St. James answered the phone at his home Thursday afternoon but declined to comment beyond saying that he planned to return to work.

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©2013 the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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