The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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Grace, James Willie
A native of Durham, North Carolina, by age 31 Grace had been charged with housebreaking and assault with a deadly weapon, but the cases were not prosecuted. Later, after moving to New York, he drew a term of fifteen years in Sing Sing on conviction of burglary, robbery, and possession of a deadly weapon. Paroled in 1974, he returned to Durham and soon earned a five-month jail sentence for assaults with a lead pipe and pistol. Later charged with robbery and rape (of his own six-year-old daughter), Grace was dispatched to a state hospital for observation; doctors there described him as a paranoid schizophrenic, pronouncing him incompetent for trial.
It was not Grace's first encounter with psychiatrists. His mother had attempted to commit him once, referring to his violence and threats to take her life, but he was released after brief examination by the doctors. A police detective later sought committal on the ground of violent behavior and the suspect's incoherence during criminal interrogation, but again he was released in thirty days.
A brooding storm of violence broke in Durham on December 10, 1976, with the sniper shooting of a male car wash employee. Six days later, David Solomon, a gas station attendant, was hit twice while filling a customer's tank. On December 17, a Durham man was shot in the back and killed while walking with his girlfriend, on the street. Next day, another man was gunned down in a city park.
Police saw "no connections" in the series of attacks, until December 23. That morning, Herbert Bradshaw, editor of a local newspaper, was killed by a bullet that crashed through his kitchen window. Within hours, sniper fire had been directed at a Durham school, a grocery store, and an ambulance crew responding to an emergency call. A witness at the grocery identified Grace as the gunman, and the hunt was on.
Arrested in a nearby town, December 28, Grace was held on charges of using a deadly weapon with intent to kill. He was eventually connected with the other incidents, and Durham's population breathed a collective sigh of relief as their resident sniper was packed off to prison.
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