Congressman wants professor who killed family in 1967 put on leave
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Springfield Bureau Chief August 7, 2013 7:10PM
James St. James is a psychology professor and chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Millikin University in Downstate Decatur.
Updated: September 9, 2013 3:00PM
SPRINGFIELD — A downstate congressman and alumnus of Millikin University said Wednesday he would have qualms about sending his child to his alma mater to study psychology, so long as a professor who fatally shot three family members remains on the faculty.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) also questioned why Professor James St. James, head of Millikin’s Department of Behavioral Sciences, would wish to damage the university’s reputation with his continued presence and urged Millikin to place him on leave to probe how he got hired in the first place in 1986.
“My issue is I don’t want to see my alma mater have its reputation damaged,” Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m a parent of a 16-year-old daughter who’ll have to choose a school in a few years. If my daughter said she wanted to be a psych major at Millikin, I hate to say, I’d have some concern.”
St. James confessed to killing his mother, father and older sister — he shot her in the face — in 1967 in their Texas home but was cleared by reason of insanity. After the killings, St. James was sent to a psychiatric hospital, spent six years there for treatment of paranoid schizophrenia and, after his release, changed his name.
When St. James was hired at Millikin, the university had no idea of his violent past. The university has declined comment on what vetting process it used when it decided to hire him.
“I’d like to know what the school is doing about this situation,” said Davis, who graduated from the small liberal arts college in Decatur in 1992 with a political science degree but never had St. James as a professor. “I don’t think the question has been answered why this information wasn’t disclosed 27 years ago when he was hired.”
“At a minimum, they should put him on administrative leave to get to the bottom of why this wasn’t disclosed. I frankly don’t know why this guy would want to stay, especially with all the media attention he’s going to attract,” said Davis, whose congressional district covers Millikin.
“Why bring the institution down?” Davis asked.
A Millikin spokesman declined comment on the congressman’s remarks Wednesday, pointing back to a three-paragraph statement issued last week praising St. James’ “remarkable” career at the university and saying it expected him to teach classes there this fall. The statement also confirmed that Millikin became aware “only recently” about the killings for which St. James confessed.
St. James’ background was first exposed by a Texas newspaper, the Georgetown Advocate, and has been the subject of extensive reporting by the Chicago Sun-Times.
St. James did not return a message left by the Sun-Times on Wednesday at his Decatur home, seeking comment on Davis’ remarks.