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Man who faked death gets life


Man who faked death gets life

July 21, 2007

Scott E. Williams

Galveston County Daily News

Most of Stephen Douglas James is beginning a life prison sentence far inland, but part of him remains in Galveston.

A jury in Bastrop County sentenced James, 51, to two life prison sentences late Thursday for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl on at least two occasions.

When police there took him into custody 19 months ago, they could only take 90 percent of his fingerprints. The last digit, his left ring finger, was sealed in a refrigerated unit at the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office, where it remained Thursday.

In August 2004, while on bond in the sexual-assault case, James tried to fake his own death in Galveston County. He checked into a Bolivar Peninsula motel and left four items for authorities to find — his severed finger, the wedding ring around it, a suicide note and a photograph of a millstone he claimed would drag him to the bottom of the Gulf.

Officials later found his empty kayak floating in the Houston Ship Channel.

The ruse worked temporarily. James remained on the loose until December 2005, when a relative spotted him in New Orleans and contacted authorities in Texas. Police in New Orleans arrested him, but then freed him after he posted $50,000 bond.

Days later, through the efforts of a Texas Ranger and bondsman-hired bounty hunter, he was back in custody.

James pleaded guilty in Bastrop County on Tuesday. Because he had no prior felony convictions, he was eligible for probation. However, the jury chose the opposite end of the punishment spectrum for him.

One witness during the hearing was comedian/ actor Harry Anderson, who played a judge on the 1980s program “Night Court.” Anderson, who owns a New Orleans nightclub, testified James defrauded him out of a large sum of money.

2007 Jul 21