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Family members of St. James’ victims: He never paid for it

Updated: September 5, 2013 6:56AM



The media glare now on Millikin University Professor James St. James after it was revealed he killed his father, mother and sister more than four decades ago before changing his name doesn’t trouble one family member of the victims.

“I don’t see this ending well for James, and it doesn’t break my heart. That’s all I can say. I think a lot of people are going to get very excited, and you know, now, he’s going to feel some pain. And that won’t necessarily be a bad thing,” said Jonathan Wye, a 58-year-old property manager living in Massachusetts.

Wye saw firsthand how the 1967 killings affected the man who would become his stepfather, James N. Wolcott Jr., brother to James St. James’ slain father, Gordon Wolcott.

Before the revelations last week, the Downstate professor had hidden his past, changing his name from James Gordon Wolcott to James St. James in 1976, and done well in his academic career at the university.

“My initial thought was if he’s done so well for so long, why bother him? But you know, if all of this creates an uproar that makes him uncomfortable, so be it,” Wye said in an emotional telephone interview on Friday with the Chicago Sun-Times in which he learned for the first time of St. James’ current life.

Wye begin witnessing the toll that the killings had on James Wolcott, commonly known as Jimmy and who shared the same name with the Millikin professor before he changed it.

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?”



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