But that was in another Country, and besides, the Wench is Dead

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You leave one little thing off your resume and some people hold it against you:

 

 

 

James Gordon Wolcott killed his father, mother, and 17-year-old sister in their Georgetown, Texas home in early August of 1967. He was 15. The night of the killings, Wolcott sniffed airplane glue and shot his family members with a .22 long-barrel rifle. Wolcott’s plan to kill his family and the resulting trial is all detailed in a stunning expose by the Georgetown Advocate.

He was tried for the murder of his father and found not guilty by reason of insanity the following year and was committed to Rusk State Hospital, where he was released in 1974 after being determined sane. He was later also found not guilty of murdering his mother and sister by reason of insanity.

46 years later, Wolcott is now James St. James, a psychology professor at Millikin University, a private school in Decatur, Illinois. Administrators at the school are just now learning of his past life and have decided to let him stay on as a faculty member.

“Millikin University has only recently been made aware of Dr. St. James’ past,” a statement issued by the university says. “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.”

Some members of his family weren’t so forgiving:

His stepfather “went down [to Texas] for the trial. And he talked about the shock of seeing a rifle he’d given Gordon or James put into evidence. All the guns in that house were put into evidence,” Wye said, noting both families were hunters and gun collectors.

“I remember him talking about how the boy just sat there during the trial impassively, like it didn’t concern him,” Wye said. “And it was very unsettling to him because they shared the same name, James Wolcott. During the trial, it was ‘James Wolcott did this,’ and ‘James Wolcott did that.’ Each time he heard it, I remember Jimmy saying it just sent a chill down him.”

The verdict came, and “Jimmy wanted nothing to do with him after that.” Wye said his stepfather had “not one iota” of sympathy for his nephew after his successful insanity defense.

“Once the trial was over, Jimmy literally and figuratively turned his back [on his nephew]. I think the kid may have made one attempt to reach out to him . . . but Jimmy wasn’t interested. He’d never seen or heard anything repentant or anything else from him, you know? Never heard anything to indicate the guy was sorry he’d done it or had second thoughts or anything that would let you believe it wasn’t just one of the coldest and well-thought-out ways to speed up your inheritance,” Wye said.

“Then Jimmy would come to the question, ‘Could this kid he thought he knew on some level be that cold?’ He couldn’t wrap his head around it,” Wye said.

Wye’s stepfather died in 1982, having lost track of the whereabouts of his nephew. That was four years before St. James landed at Millikin.

“If Jimmy knew he actually had a successful life, he’d probably turn over in his grave because it just doesn’t seem appropriate. [St. James] endured no penalty. A couple years in a mental hospital is nothing” for killing three people, Wye said.

It was news to Wye where St. James is because he figured the professor would have chosen a more transient career.

In a separate interview, Jeremy Wye, Jonathan’s younger brother, also had not learned St. James was a professor until hearing from the Sun-Times on Friday. He asked the newspaper not to publish where he lives to minimize the chance of St. James ever making contact with him.

“My stepfather used to worry one day he’d come knocking at the door,” said Jeremy Wye, who characterized St. James’ life after the psychiatric hospital as “creepy,” particularly the new name he chose for himself, James St. James.

“That name stuck in my mind. It’s such a freaky name. It’s like the guy has a Jesus complex on top of everything else,” Jeremy Wye said.

How can a killer “call himself a saint?”

Actually I think it is entirely appropriate in our age of cheap grace.  A multiple murderer spends a few years in a psych hospital, changes his name to James St. James, and becomes a professor of psychology, never bothering to tell his future employer that, oh, by the way, he murdered his family.  Now his former students are rallying around him, and his employer gives him its full support.  And his murdered father, mother and sister?  Well, that was all a very long time ago, in another state.  Just keep Dr. “St. James” away from the airplane glue and everything will be fine.

28 Responses to But that was in another Country, and besides, the Wench is Dead

  • Art Deco says:

    If he actually were insane, 45 years on 1st generation anti-psychotic medications would likely have left him with a very noticeable case of tardive dyskinesia. Little doubt he conned the jury and the head-shrinkers.

  • Pinky says:

    I don’t know the specifics of the case, but I don’t think that prior mental health problems should prevent someone from teaching. Am I wrong on this one? It seems so clear to me that I’m worried I’m missing something.

  • WK Aiken says:

    “I don’t think that prior mental health problems should prevent someone from teaching”

    I’m thinking it’s a prerequisite at most major universities.

  • “that prior mental health problems”

    When combined with murder I think they should. I have also done enough criminal defense work that I am skeptical that he ever was mentally ill. The airplane glue defense fits right in with the twinkie defense and the devil made me do it defense.

  • Art Deco says:

    I don’t think that prior mental health problems should prevent someone from teaching. Am I wrong on this one?

    No, but heinous crimes should. What’s the contention, that he was hallucinating and thought he was shooting at poltergeists?

  • ctd says:

    I can’t see anything wrong here. The law determined him to be insane. He did his treatment. No employer should reasonably expect a person to report every non-conviction that occurred as a minor.

    Based on the facts given, we have no evidence to indicate that he is dangerous other than his name seems “creepy” to some people.

    Should he express sorrow? Probably, but that has nothing to do with his job or profession. Grace is God’s business.

  • “The law determined him to be insane. He did his treatment.”

    He was released from the psych hospital six years after murdering his family. That better have been some superb treatment.

    “No employer should reasonably expect a person to report every non-conviction that occurred as a minor.”

    Non-conviction is a sweet euphemism for not guilty by reason of insanity for murdering his dad, mom and sister. I certainly would want a prospective employee to advise me of that little tidbit.

    “Based on the facts given, we have no evidence to indicate that he is dangerous other than his name seems “creepy” to some people.”

    Other than that whole murdering his family thing. We also have him changing his name and not informing his employer of his blood-stained past. If he is not dangerous currently now, he is certainly cold and calculating.

    “Should he express sorrow?”

    I’ll settle for honesty. I think this bozo is a sociopath and I wouldn’t trust him within a dozen miles of my kids.

  • Pinky says:

    I’m not saying I’d vote for the guy….

    I would hope that I could come up with a better fake name if I had to, though. James St. James sounds like a member of Spinal Tap.

  • donna sherwood says:

    excuse me Mr. Clarey I do not know how you justify your remarks with any type of catholic conscience. I do not know any more about this case than reported in various news releases but the Bible says:

    Though your sins are as scarlet,

    They will be white as snow;

    Though they are red like crimson,

    They will be like wool. It is quite possible he has repented and was actually insane. What do you suggest that he be hounded and not allowed to live with dignity and contribute.

  • “excuse me Mr. Clarey I do not know how you justify your remarks with any type of catholic conscience.”

    Quite easily actually.

    “Though your sins are as scarlet,

    They will be white as snow;

    Though they are red like crimson,

    They will be like wool. It is quite possible he has repented and was actually insane”

    If he was insane he has no need of repentance. What we do know is that he murdered his family, served six years in a psych hospital, changed his name after he got out, and failed to tell his future employer that he murdered his family. That does not seem to me to be the acts of a repentant man, but rather the acts of a cold, calculating sociopath.

    “What do you suggest that he be hounded and not allowed to live with dignity and contribute.”

    I suggest that we reserve some of our compassion for his victims, a shocking point of view I know, but one I hold to. His sentence worked out to two years for each life he took. If he is suffering some discomfort now, my heart bleeds for him.

  • ctd says:

    “suggest that we reserve some of our compassion for his victims”

    Why do you suggest there is not any? Just because there is some respect shown for the law, his youth, his rights to employment, the possibility of his mental illness, or the possibility of redemption? None of those precludes compassion for his victims. For Christians, compassion is not a zero-sum game.

    “His sentence worked out to two years for each life to take . . .”

    You are still working under the unproven assumption that he was not insane and, therefore, has to be subject to a “sentence.” Those with more facts of the case than you concluded that he was insane. The legal system agreed. How about a little respect for the law unless we have some definite facts to the contrary?

    And, not telling an employer about an act that was done as a minor and that did not result in a criminal conviction may not have been the best course of action but it does not make one a sociopath.

  • “Why do you suggest there is not any?”

    Because their murderer received virtually no punishment and because people, including you, rush to his defense.

    “For Christians, compassion is not a zero-sum game.”

    Try not to act as if being a Christian requires going around with “Chump” tattooed to your forehead.

    “Those with more facts of the case than you concluded that he was insane.”

    Please. I’ve been doing criminal defense for 31 years. A jury was convinced in 67, when the insanity defense was all the rage, that this parricide, matricide, and fratricide was insane. He goes off to a psych hospital and is miraculously cured of the insanity that caused him to off his mother, father and sister after six, count them, six years. Give me a break.

    “How about a little respect for the law unless we have some definite facts to the contrary?”

    Spend the next three decades dealing with the legal system as I have for the last three decades, and then we will have a little chat.

    “but it does not make one a sociopath.”

    Combined with three murders I think it does. I think this fellow got away with a triple murder and well meaning fools are rushing to his defense.

  • Art Deco says:

    You are still working under the unproven assumption that he was not insane –

    Again, what do you fancy happened?

    1. That he did not know that was his family in front of him and not a set of ghosts; or

    2. He somehow got the idea in this head that his family were auxilliaries of Charles Manson and he had to stop them from butchering pregnant women

    3. He somehow got the idea in this head that shooting people in threes is a perfectly normal recreational activity.

    4. That you can ‘cure’ violent psychopaths with milieux and the sort of talk therapies practiced ca. 1970. Or maybe they tried play therapy.

    http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0345339258

  • Alphatron Shinyskullus says:

    ctd, parricide very rightly creates a lifelong social stigma. This man did not merely do something embarrassing, which is the extent of behavior for most people with mental illness. He did something horrifically evil that continues to affect his surviving family members. While I certainly hope he gets into heaven, I wouldn’t feel comfortable if he were teaching my children. That’s a perfectly natural and justified reaction. It’s not uncharitable to show concern about an atrocity that was committed.

  • Greg Mockeridge says:

    The idea that we are being compassionate towards someone by overlooking or minimizing their bad behavior is flat out false. And in this case it is just plain twisted.

    Furthermore I find it hard to believe that this university didn’t already know about this guy before the story broke. I am beginning the think that giving a kid a college education is a form of child abuse.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    I could not help recalling the story of Charles Lamb’s sister, Mary. She stabbed her mother to death, in a fit of insanity. After four years in a private hospital, she lived with her brother for the rest of his life. She became a close friend of Dorothy Wordsworth, the sister of the poet and presided over a literary salon that included Wordsworth and Coleridge.

    She was the co-author, with her brother, of “Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare,” and there are many touching references to her in his “Essays of Elia,” under the pseudonym of “Bridget.” One is of particular interest, “We are both of us inclined to be a little too positive…But where we have differed upon moral points; upon something proper to be done, or let alone; whatever heat of opposition, or steadiness of conviction, I set out with, I am sure always, in the long run, to be brought over to her way of thinking.”

    The human mind is beyond fathoming.

  • “The human mind is beyond fathoming.”

    How true. She spent the rest of her life in and out of mental institutions whenever her brother decided that her mental illness was too much to handle. He, as a result of his caretaker duties for his sister, decided to never marry, which she never did either. I have no doubt that in her case her mental illness was valid, and she was fortunate that she had a brother willing to care for her until his death in 1834. I read both Tales from Shakespeare and Essays of Elia as a child. My favorite Charles Lamb quotation: “Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.”

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Donald M McClarey

    There are some charming memoirs of Mary Lamb by Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd (of Talfourd on Copyright, long the leading text-book) A barrister and MP, he became a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, one of the three superior courts of common law.

  • CAM says:

    “given the traumatic experiences of his childhood” made me do some research. To paraphrase the Chicago Sun Times, the small Texas town was divided into the conservative thinking townies and the liberal gowns (academics). James’ father was a biology professor at a local college. The Wolcotts attended the Methodist church and James helped start the church’s camp youth. He had an IQ in the top 1%; was an A student and socially awkward in high school. Being a typical “nerd” in personality in appearance and behavior he was bullied because of it. James became disaffected and turned to the counter culture of the 60s becoming a peacenik. He habitually sniffed airplane glue and had attempted suicide twice. After examining him six doctors and psychiatrists declared him a paranoid schizophrenic. James may have been heavily sedated at his trial.
    I am assuming he may have been tried as a juvenile given that he was hospitalized for six years which would have made him 21when he was released.
    His crime was horrific, but let’s not forget that he was only 15 which makes him a child in my book. Our society is intent on shortening childhood, lowering the age of consent and destroying childhood innocence through the media and entertainment industry. When a tragedy occurs though the child is viewed as an adult.
    I had a late friend who had a schizophrenic son. His mental illness became apparent about the time of puberty. She was a wonderful advocate for her son, but worried that if something happened to her his father might not monitor the young man’s medications. I hope that Dr. James takes medications so he remains stable.

  • “He had an IQ in the top 1%; was an A student and socially awkward in high school. Being a typical “nerd” in personality in appearance and behavior he was bullied because of it.”

    Which pretty well describes my adolescence. Somehow I did not kill my family as a result. Here is the true contradiction: If he was so mentally ill that he killed his parents and sister, there is no way he could have been “cured” in six years.

  • Art Deco says:

    After examining him six doctors and psychiatrists declared him a paranoid schizophrenic.

    Remember Shirley Mason (a.k.a Sybil Isabel Dorsett)? Tens of thousands of people in the United States have been diagnosed with ‘dissociative disorder’ in this country. It is a rare diagnosis in Europe and you can find psychiatrists in this country who will tell you the whole mess is a misbegotten intellectual construct of Cornelia Wilbur, Shirley Mason’s doctor. I know one woman who related she had been told by a corps of psychiatrists (at Bassett Health Care or Benjamin Rush Hospital, I believe – she was a patient at both) that she had 17 different personalities. One of her closer friends had occasion to ask why, if she had that many personalities, I have only ever met one of them.

    Psychiatrists have had a chronic problem with their taxonomies and none more consequentially so than that differentiating schizophrenics from the rest of us. Charles Krauthammer, the lapsed psychiatrist and newspaper columnist explained the reason for this during the ACLU’s misbegotten intervention in the Billy Boggs case two decades ago: identification of schizophrenia is much more reliably done by examining the course of a person’s life rather than at a discrete point in youth. I was told by one mental health tradesman that about 3/4 of the people who were slapped with the label “schizophrenic” ca. 1965 did not merit it. He does not specialize in that phenomenon, so take that with a hunk of rock salt.

    That this fellow Wolcott has the intellectual function to work as a professor strongly suggests he did not suffer a schizophreniform breakdown in 1967 or afterward. As a psychiatric nurse explained to me many years ago: a true schizophrenic breakdown always leaves you damaged in some way. You do not get back to your prelapsarian level of function, even if you are among those who manage to earn a living and build an adult life for yourself (many never do).

    If he were a paranoid schizophrenic able to function sufficiently to hold down a challenging job, it is dollars to doughnuts he has been held together by antipsychotic medications for decades. Long term use of 1st generation anti-psychotics has some very visible effects most of the time.

    The only way this schizo story can be true is if you have serial improbabilities: juvenile schizophrenia, violent schizophrenia, an absence of moral knowledge or crucial factual understanding, recovery without manifest damage to intellectual function, recovery without anti-psychotic use or long-term anti-psychotic use without neurological damage. Not buying it.

    A hypothesis: you had a period of time due in part to the advance of prestige of the medical profession where broad swaths of laymen were willing to accept verbose expositions from psychiatrists (supposedly drawing on the esoterica of their craft) that the personal responsibility we experienced in our daily life did not apply in certain cases (and you need our expert knowledge and sophistication to identify them).

    Why not read Shana Alexander’s account of Patricia Hearst’s odyssey in the legal system (Anyone’s Daughter) or some of Scott Peck’s books published prior to 1985 to get a sense of the kultursmog of the time? Alexander interviewed the jurors who convicted Patricia Hearst and discovered this: they were quite impressed with the three top-of-the-trade academic psychiatrists that testified for her (L.J. West, Martin Orne, and Robert jay LIfton). It is just that after two weeks of trial, their testimony collapsed of its own weight. If you believed them, you had to give this woman a blank check for everything that happened over a 20 month period, and they could not do that.

    As for Scott Peck, he went so far as to attribute a woman’s catastrophic bout of lunacy to her mother’s banal self-centeredness. What was your mother like, Dr. Peck? This was not some case he had read about, but a patient of his and he was relating his conversations with her and her mother. Be the optimal parent or your kid is heading to the asylum (and pay us a great deal of money to show you in an indirect and obscure way how you are doing it wrong, it will only take five to seven years worth of weekly 50 minute sessions. Ninety dollars please). You have to ask how we all functioned before psychiatric office practice came to be so common.

    That’s a taste of the cultural matrix in which those psychiatrists and that jury were operating.

  • Art Deco says:

    “He had an IQ in the top 1%; was an A student and socially awkward in high school. Being a typical “nerd” in personality in appearance and behavior he was bullied because of it.”

    Lower the percentile some, and that is Rod Dreher’s biography. Lower the percentile and change ‘high school’ to ‘elementary school’ and it’s mine. My first degree relatives sort neatly into those still alive and those who have died in bed. Same with Dreher. Just how did we get from there to here?

  • CAM says:

    The prosecutor apparently did not even attempt to refute the shrinks’ diagnoses.

    My point is that IF he was tried as a juvenile and released from the system because he was 21, and IF he was really schizophrenic then he should have been followed with treatment and medications to this day. I suppose because of the right to privacy the public will never have that information (safe bet that the all seeing government has it).
    Would I want a child of mine to be on the same campus? No.
    Signed,
    Former nerdette or Ugly Duckling now a Swan

  • Art Deco says:

    The prosecutor apparently did not even attempt to refute the shrinks’ diagnoses

    If he threw the case, was given generally to incompetence, or was taken in by their expertise, that may explain the acquittal. Prosecutors are not immune to the kultursmog.

    Cannot say about Texas in 1967. In New York when I had to know about these things (the better part of a generation later), homicides were allocated to County Courts (outside New York City) and the criminal part of the state Supreme Court (inside the five boroughs) provided the defendant had reached the age of 13. Family Courts do examine juvenile crimes, but not this sort of crime.

    The medical profession acquired by the early 20th century an authority and prestige it does not have anymore and psychiatrists, trained as they were in medical schools, were beneficiaries of that.

    Maybe this guy is a neuro-psychiatric phenom or maybe a sextet drawn from a corps of professionals with a long history of trafficking in speculation and intellectual fad was successfully played.

  • Mary De Voe says:

    Pinky: Insane people do not murder. Murderers murder. Does the university have authentic authority to expose their minor students to an unrepentant murderer? I think on some level the university is afraid that if they fire James St. James, they too will become the recipients of his wrath. The university has hired a potential school shooter with a past history to support their fears.
    About this time too, psychiatrists said that they could cure pedophilia and reassigned pedophiles to public ministry using physician patient privilege .

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Pinky

    You are right. If a person is killed by a lunatic, that is death by misadventure (per infortunam as our old writers say) just as much as if they were killed by a bull or a falling tree.

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