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.”
“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.
“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.
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.
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.