Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lawrence man charged with shooting his 80-year-old cousin in Illinois soybean field

October 12, 2011, 11:32 a.m. Updated October 12, 2011, 3:58 p.m.


Gerard James, who lives just south of Lawrence, is charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 9, 2011 shooting death of his cousin, Harlan James, in a field northwest of Champaign, Ill. This is Gerard James' booking photo from the Champaign County Correctional Center, where he is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.

Gerard James, who lives just south of Lawrence, is charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 9, 2011 shooting death of his cousin, Harlan James, in a field northwest of Champaign, Ill. This is Gerard James' booking photo from the Champaign County Correctional Center, where he is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.

A 68-year-old man who lives just south of Lawrence is in an Illinois jail, charged with shooting his cousin to death on a family soybean field northwest of Champaign, Ill.

Gerard James is being held in lieu of $1 million bond in the Champaign County Correctional Center. He’d been in the area for a few weeks, helping his brother harvest soybeans on land they own together.

Last Friday, on an 80-acre field just north of Mahomet, Ill., Gerard James had been driving a grain truck while his brother, Alan, had been operating a combine.

Lt. Ed Ogle, commander of the investigations division for the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, describes what officials believe happened next:

A van pulls up shortly before 3 p.m., driven by Gerard James’ cousin. Inside is Harlan James, who lives in Champaign and is hauling brush out to his own field nearby, where he planned to burn the material.

Harlan gets out of the van, and walks up to the grain truck. He and Gerard meet — what, if anything, is said remains unknown.

From the combine, Alan hears shouting. Then a shot.

Harlan is dead, and Alan sees his brother holding a pistol, still sitting in the cab of the grain truck.

The brothers talk, and decide that someone should notify the authorities. Alan makes the call, and Gerard is arrested.

Gerard James doesn’t dispute what happened, Ogle said Tuesday.

“He readily admits that he was afraid of him and that he shot him,” Ogle said Tuesday, of the ongoing investigation. “We don’t know why, obviously. (Harlan) was an 80-year-old guy. He didn’t have any weapons with him.”

Gerard James has been arraigned and charged with first-degree murder. He faces up to life in prison.

Ogle said that Gerard James would make his way into the area twice a year: for the planting of crops in the spring and harvest in the fall. His mother lives in the area, cared for by Alan James.

While harvesting Friday, Gerard James had a 9 mm pistol with him, Ogle said. Alan James had a pistol and a shotgun in the combine.

The brothers also own some rural property together along the Kansas River, near Lecompton.

Gerard James has no criminal record in Douglas County. A records check indicates he’s received “a couple traffic tickets,” but nothing more, said Sgt. Steve Lewis, a spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

“That’s just your average-adult type of stuff,” Lewis said.


somebodynew 6 years ago

Not saying it couldn't happen - but, how does one get charged with 4 counts of murder when only one person died ????

Anyway, sad situation that people that age have to resort to that level of violence.

ebyrdstarr 6 years ago

somebody, it's probably 4 different kinds of murder charged in the alternative. Just covering all possible bases, but he would only be convicted of 1 count. (If at all...)

mfagan 6 years ago

You're right on, ebyrdstarr. That's basically what the situation is with the four counts referred to in an earlier version of this story. - Mark Fagan

TopJayhawk 6 years ago

I think this was just a conflict of mega egos.

I mean we know both were outstanding in their field.

Alex Parker 6 years ago

We're working to gather more details on the story, including your question, somebodynew.

hawkergirl 6 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

somebodynew 6 years ago

Thanks Alex, I knew this was a preliminary article and expected updates later. I am sure the answer is either ebyrd's or py's.

david_ 6 years ago

"I knew this was a preliminary article and expected updates later".

Hahahaha don't count on it somebodynew. As soon as a college athlete gets a ticket or a good citizen of Lawrence runs into some bad luck, this dirty little gossip rag will drop this story like a hot potato to devote their time to "breaking gossip". Small town minds love small town gossip and ljworld is a family owned provider of small town gossip. Did you notice many people complained in the blogs about the recent "breaking gossip" coverage of an ex-college athlete involved in a DUI case. Maybe you didn't because this dirty little rag removed all the comments about that article. Many posters, including myself, were critical of the article and commented about the ljworld becoming nothing more than a small town gossip rag that loves reporting small town gossip and decorating this site with worthless questions like, "how often do you get a haircut". I guess as they say, the truth hurts doesn't it. Once again, good job Urinal Boys.

ignatius_j_reilly 6 years ago

Why do you spend this much time and energy hating something? Quit reading the LJWorld and spend your time doing something you like.

(I shouldn't actually address your complaints, but I'll give in on one topic: Frankly, there's a lot of interest in former college athletes in this town. They should report on it. This must mean you think the sports page is exclusively gossip too. Unfortunately, even the biggest, most prestigious newspapers in the world have sports pages. Even the NY Times stoops to a sports page. Hell, sometimes they give it its own pullout section. (Shudders))

It's their job to make money and inform citizens, not keep anonymous online commenters happy.

DRsmith 6 years ago

Crazy, good for nothing Lawrence residents wreaking havoc on other peaceful cities.

newmedia 6 years ago

Probably wanted to plant beans next year and his cousin wanted to rotate to corn...

irvan moore 6 years ago

they seemed to have a lot of firepower for harvesting soybeans

somebodynew 6 years ago

Must be some big critters in those fields if you have to have that much firepower to harvest crops.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years ago

Should have gotten out of the grain truck and onto the plow!

klauxman 6 years ago

This is a terrible situation involving a good man. There is surely more to the story. Please reserve judgment.

ecrivaindevamp 6 years ago

You're absolutely right, Klauxman. Sad situation involving a good man that I've known for over 15 years. I hope people will reserve judgement. Tragic...

xclusive85 6 years ago

Since when does the LJW start putting addresses in these types of stories?

bearded_gnome 6 years ago

helping his brother harvest soybeans on land they own together.

---so, maybe the really old dude insisted on burning his land, posing danger to the old brothers and their crop?

this is just sad.

maybe really old dude had dementia, and couldn't be reasoned with. sometimes people with dementia can become dangerous.

Scott Morgan 6 years ago

or maybe he thought his cousin was a big rabbit. It's a rare problem called Harveyitus.

Getaroom 6 years ago

Please fix the typo in the next incarnation of the article:

Lt. Ed Ogle, commander of the investigations division for the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, describes what officials believe happen (ed) next:

tallpony 5 years, 12 months ago

Gun in the combine, gun in the grain truck, gun in the van. The stage was set for a shoot out, BUT WHY? Real simple, validation and transparency...Those farm fields hold lots of money, and the only way you get to own farmland...steal,marry, inherit. Find the thief, you'll find the motive. Find out who hired the attorney to amend the will of the elderly being treated for dementia so they can steal from the children of the next generation and you will find the psychopath that believes stealing is a family value. The psychopath thinks his side of the family deserves more, so he manipulates and self serves. I hope the truth is published and I produce he movie. It's a sad truth that permeates through out the farm community. Anyone know a good attorney, that's not a psychopath?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

I don't really know Mr. James, but he's long been a frequent patron of downtown establishments-- including the Free State. He's never impressed me as being prone to violence in any way.

somedude20 6 years ago

I knew I had seen that face. Yeah, he would dress pretty sharp for an old dude and hit most of the places that had beer specials (remember him alot at Vermont St BBQ) that dude got pretty toasty and had a keen eye for the ladies but he could have used some teeth though

thebigspoon 6 years ago

Maybe the movie " Children of the corn " was a true story after all ????

Richard Payton 6 years ago

Brothers got some land toward Topeka go figure.

lgreen17 6 years ago

He must have been very afraid of this man. Jerry is a very sweet kind person. I can't imagine how frightened he must have been to kill someone.

the_realest_mccoy 6 years ago

Everyone who knows Gerry knows he is a good-natured and kind-hearted man. I assure you he will be exonerated when the facts come out in this case. And when he is, I will buy him a pint of beer on the porch.

Sunny Parker 6 years ago

Very sad and disturbing situation.

david_ 6 years ago

ignatius....... I respect your opinion. But, you unknowingly hit the nail right on the head with the last part of your comment,

"It's their job to make money and inform citizens, not keep anonymous online commenters happy."

ignatius, we agree it's their job to make money. Informing citizens is true also if it's actual news and not small town gossip the general public could care less about.

"Not to keep anonymous online commenters happy" is where we differ, and I'll explain why and you will understand my disgust.

Not long ago, a family friend was stopped by ljworld reporters while he was walking downtown. He was asked to participate in that day's OTS question. I don't remember the question, but it's not really important. He agreed to answer their question and let them take his photo to appear in a later issue of the ljworld. This young man had recently been through a very difficult personal issue, but his spirits were somewhat lifted at the thought that he would appear in the ljworld. He was so proud of this he immediately told all his friends and family to "watch the paper, I'm going to be in it".

When he appeared in the ljworld OTS section his mother phoned me right away to tell me to take a look. She said he was grinning from ear to ear when he first went online and saw his photo and comment.

Now here's the sad part, and the part you are wrong about. For the rest of that day this young man monitored the online responses the anonymous posters were saying. For the most part none of the posters were commenting about the OTS question. No, most were making comments about this young man's photo. Making fun of the way he looked. I probably don't even have to tell you how crushed this young man was. His mother called me the next day and was in tears over it. She said her son felt like a complete loser and was sorry he even told anyone he would be in the paper.

david_ 6 years ago

I went online and read the comments. They were cruel to say the least. I began going back and looking at the comments left by the ones involved in this and noticed they regularly did this to many other people who appeared in the OTS photo. I'm sure many of the others they made fun of were just as hurt as this young man.

I began posting myself in an attempt to get the ljworld to stop letting this happen. Did they care, NO. It seemed to me that the ljworld was enjoying these cruel posts as much as anyone else involved. So, I disagree with you ignatius, I think the ljworld does want to "keep anonymous online commenters happy". Especially if these commenters enjoy making cruel comments about a nice young man's appearance.

Also, your comment that I should spend my time doing something I like. Well, I am. I'm trying to help others. That includes people like this young man and others who make their headlines only because they made mistakes or ran into some bad luck. Because I noticed that those were the articles with the cruel comments from these anonymous posters.

I'm not a knee jerk poster. I've spent hours looking through comments by anonymous posters. Here is the impression I get. Throw up an article that really isn't news, but involves a good hardworking citizen who has fallen on some bad luck, then let a feeding frenzy of anonymous losers post pretty much anything they want about this person. Great fun isn't it? Yea, if your a momma's basement dwelling, unemployed jerk. Just the kind of people the ljworld likes to keep happy.

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