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       July 13, 2011 4:06 PM

 He Just Snapped


Adrienne & Zach Magee

For most mothers driving their kids home from school on April 18, 2007 in Pearl River, Louisiana, it was just an ordinary day. For Adrienne Magee, age 28, it was the day her worst fears came true.

Knowing she drove their children home around 4:45 every day, her estranged husband lay in wait near her suburban home. James Magee, 30, was carrying a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with the extra large .00 buckshot he’d bought 3 hours earlier. Upon spotting her car, he chased her, ramming the car for several blocks until she lost control and crashed into a tree. What happened next was horrific.

Magee Mugshot Magee walked up to Adrienne’s car and shot her point-blank in the left temple. His 5-year-old son, Ashton, tried to run away. Magee shot him in the back. When Ashton fell to the pavement, Magee shot him in the face. He then returned to the car, where his 8-year-old daughter, Ashleigh, and her 7-year-old sister, Aleisha, cowered in the back seat. Magee shot Ashleigh in the shoulder. Aleisha played dead and escaped with cuts from a shattered window.


The shooting was the tragic end of the stalking and escalating violence Magee directed at his estranged wife. Two days earlier Adrienne had filed a complaint with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, describing an incident the previous night at a ball field. After she locked herself and the children inside her car, James smashed the car window, threw her car keys across the parking lot and left, saying he’d see her soon. The deputy who took the report advised her to file for a protective order against him.

Later that day she did, citing a history of physical abuse "whenever he gets mad in front of the children. I feel my life could be in danger,” she wrote. Her desperate plea for protection was granted on Tuesday, but Magee ignored it and continued to stalk her.

Even as the shooting occurred, deputies were searching for him. Sheriff Jack Strain believes his agency did all they could to save her and said Adrienne did everything she could to protect herself and the children. "I don’t know if anything short of her moving to an undisclosed location would have made a difference,” Strain said. "If someone is so hell-bent on such destruction, I don’t know what anyone could have done to stop him.”

Flight and Arrest

After the shootings a sheriff’s negotiator called Magee’s cellphone and tried to persuade him to surrender as he drove toward Alabama. Magee asked about his wife and children, but seemed more interested in whether he was facing a murder charge than their well-being. Three hours after the shooting, he was arrested in Mobile, Alabama, and later extradited to St. Tammany Parish to face two counts of first-degree murder. Other than a string of traffic violations, he had no criminal record. But he did have a history of violence against women.

Previous Violence

According to court records, Magee had lost custody of 2 sons from a previous relationship in 1996. Their mother said Magee had threatened her life and attacked her. "He was very abusive,” she said. Hoping they might resolve their problems, she filed no charges against him, but in September 1996 she filed for custody of the children. They had ongoing disputes over visitation. Magee eventually signed over parental rights and after 2004 they no contact. When friends and family called to warn her that he was still at large after the shooting, She said, "Those innocent babies. And she didn’t deserve it. He needs to get what he deserves.”

After his arrest, Magee confessed to the shootings, saying he "just snapped.” Sheriff Strain offered the dated and time-stamped store receipt where he bought the ammunition as evidence of premeditation. While driving to Alabama, he lied to the negotiator, saying he was still in St. Tammany Parish and would surrender soon. As Strain puts it, "[he] did everything he could to deceive us in order to make a getaway.”

After the shooting Adrienne Magee’s uncle, Charles Ingram, said Ashleigh was "doing fine” but gave no details on her emotional state. He said that he and Adrienne’s extended family would sit down and discuss arrangements for the girls’ long term care. A fund for them was established at a local bank.

The Trial

Traumatized and terrified of their father, both girls received weekly counseling after the shooting. During the trial in October 2009, they were allowed to give closed-circuit testimony in a room outside the father’s presence, broadcast live for the jury and the defendant to see.

On October 17, 2009, a 12 member St. Tammany Parish jury convicted James Magee for the murders of his wife and son, and the attempted first-degree murders of his daughters. The jury determined that Magee should get the death penalty for the murders of his wife and son. A judge later sentenced him to serve 50 years in prison for each of the attempted murders. Lawyers said they believed the prison time was a safety measure in case an appeals court later ruled that Magee did not deserve death for the two murders. But even in this case, Magee would still likely get life in prison for both crimes.

A Phenomenal Mother and Two Orphans

She was "a beautiful person in every way, said one of Adrienne’s neighbors, "a very sweet person who loved children and loved working at the daycare.” But to all intents and purposes the shooting left her two daughters orphans, a not unusual circumstance in such cases.

Ashton "Zach” Magee never got to attend first grade.


Sources: New Orleans Times-Picayune, nola.com (4-18-2007, 10-10-2009, 1-02-2010)

For more details on this and other cases see DARK DEEDS, Volume Two: Serial killers, stalkers and domestic homicides

What do you think? Could this crime have been prevented?

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[ Posted by Cher'ley, July 27, 2011 7:36 PM ]
     I don't know if this crime could have been prevented, but he should have received the death penalty. I think if stricter laws were applied some crimes may be prevented or at least lessened.

posted by SUSAN FLEET   July 13, 2011 4:06 PM  Domestic Homicide 


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