Arson, theft suspect ruled fit for trial

| June 12, 2010

An Ottawa woman charged with stealing more than $100,000 from her church — and allegedly setting two fires to cover up the theft — was ruled fit to stand trial Friday.

With the fitness question now settled, 42-year-old Terri L. James was scheduled for trial July 12. James, the wife of a former state’s attorney, will next appear July 9 for a final pre-trial conference.
Mental health evaluations are sealed and state’s attorney Brian Towne declined to discuss the contents of the report by Dr. Robert Chapman of Normal. During a Friday hearing, attorneys submitted

Chapman’s findings and Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. pronounced James fit to assist her attorney at trial.
James was ordered held on $200,000 bond after she allegedly set fire to two structures, one of them a south side home, on March 17.

No motive was initially given, but nine days later prosecutors filed a theft charge alleging she took more than $100,000 from First Congregational United Church of Christ, where James had been employed as a bookkeeper. The arsons, prosecutors allege, were an attempt to cover up the theft.

James would face 6-30 years in prison if convicted of Class X theft, elevated one class because of her position of trust or authority. Probation is not an option.

She faces lesser sentences if convicted of residential arson and attempted arson, carrying terms of 4-15 years and 2-5 years, respectively.

James is the wife of former state’s attorney Mike James, who served as La Salle County’s top prosecutor from 1997-2001.

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Category: Church Security

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