Millikin professor followed law

Millikin professor followed law

DECATUR -- He was linked to a triple murder, changed his name and became a professor at Millikin. But lawyers say, he's followed the law.
DECATUR -- He was linked to a triple murder, changed his name and became a professor at Millikin. But lawyers say, he's followed the law. WCIA-3's Megan Brilley sat down with a lawyer to ask some questions about James St. James.
Last week, news broke the Millikin professor killed his parents and sister in Texas, nearly 50 years ago. The story aired all over the country, and people had a lot of questions afterward. They wanted to know, legally, how a man connected to such a horrific crime could lead the life he has.

Gary Geisler has been practicing law in Decatur for more than 30 years. The story of James St. James has been a big talker in the law community.

"I'm a little surprised that it's drawn this much attention. I'm not aware of anything that he did from a legal standpoint, that was wrong."

James St. James was born as Jim Wolcott. In 1967, the then-15-year old sniffed airplane glue, grabbed a rifle and shot his parents and sister. He was tried as an adult, and found not guilty by reason of insanity.

"This man hasn't been convicted of anything."

That's why changing his name to James St. James was perfectly legal. The only way it would not have been legal, is if he was trying to cover up crime or fraud. But he was never convicted, so there was no crime to cover up.

"It's something that anybody could go and look up."

So why didn't Millikin notice when they hired him nearly 30 years ago? The fact that he changed his name probably made it difficult to find, but it was still public record. Applications usually ask if the person had been convicted of a crime, but James St. James never was. Legally, he didn't have to tell them about his bloody past.

"I'm not surprised that Millikin was unaware of everything going on in his life. I'm sure at that point in time they were focusing on his academic career."

The community and city leaders have been making their opinions public. Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy says he would step down if he were in St. James' position.

Macon County Sheriff Tom Schneider released a statement: "If you kill your family, you deserve to never walk free in our society. The system has failed Millikin and all of us when they allowed James Wilcott to change his name."

Geisler is aware it was a horrific crime, but ever since, he says St. James has followed the law.

"We're a society of second chances. This man has established himself in the community and at the university. His life has gone on."

St. James will return to Millikin in the fall. He says he is happy the university is supporting him.
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