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Illinois university stands by professor linked to 1967 killings

By Mike Robinson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A small Illinois university said on Friday it was standing by a long-time psychology professor recently revealed to have shot and killed his father, mother and teenage sister in Texas more than four decades ago, although he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Millikin University, a Presbyterian school in Decatur with 2,380 students, said in a statement that the school expects James St. James, 61, to keep teaching at Millikin this fall.

The school said it "has only recently been made aware of Dr. St. James' past. Given the traumatic experiences of his childhood, Dr. St. James' efforts to rebuild his life and obtain a successful professional career have been remarkable."

St. James, originally James Wolcott, spent six years in a mental institution after the killings but emerged to start a new life, changing his name and getting master's and doctoral degrees in psychology, according to the Georgetown Advocate newspaper.

Georgetown is the Austin suburb where the killings took place in 1967. Reporters for the paper wondered what had happened to Wolcott and traced him to Millikin.

St. James could not be reached for comment Friday.

The news sent a shock wave through Decatur, with city council member Jerry J. Dawson, a former Macon County sheriff, saying that St. James should have told the school about his past before joining the faculty.

"I look at this from a law enforcement perspective, and I just have a problem with somebody who didn't disclose this information," Dawson said. "If I were a parent and my kids were going to Millikin, that's something I would want to know."

In its statement, the university said that St. James had over 27 years "taught a variety of courses at Millikin, served in various leadership roles and built a successful academic career, receiving academic awards including the 1997 Teaching Excellence and Leadership Award."

The Georgetown Advocate said St. James' father was Gordon Wolcott, chairman of the biology department of a local university. The newspaper said James Wolcott had admitted to sniffing some airplane glue on the night of August 4, 1967, and then killing his family with a .22-caliber rifle.

(Reporting by Mike Robinson; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Ken Wills)

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