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Former teacher pleads guilty to attacking stepson with ax

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A St. Paul man who once worked as a teacher pleaded guilty Monday to attacking his stepson with an ax.

Mark R. James, 62, had been upset about his 40-year-old stepson living in his home long before the February incident, the criminal complaint says (pdf file). In addition, the complaint says James had recently become angered when he discovered his stepson had charged $150 to his credit card in order to buy Android games.

According to the complaint: On the morning of Feb. 16, James retrieved an ax then woke the victim, and said he had 10 minutes to get out of the house. James then struck art supplies with the weapon before jabbing the victim in the face, causing a laceration near his eye. The stepson escaped and called 911 from a neighbor's house.

The stepson's 18-month-old child was in the room at the time of the attack, but was uninjured. His mother (James' wife) was at work at the time of the attack. The victim's wife was also out of the house.

When James was arrested, it was reported he worked as a fourth-grade teacher at Anishinabe Academy in Minneapolis. He was put on administrative leave when the charges were filed. According to the Pioneer Press, a district spokeswoman says James resigned last month and no longer works with Minneapolis Public Schools.

James was initially charged with first- and second-degree attempted murder. He denied attacking his stepson when asked by police on the scene, but in a later interview told police he "tried to kill" the man, the complaint says.

James pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. He faces 18-21 months in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 1.

'I tried to kill my wife's son'

The victim, his wife and their two children had moved in to the residence in October of 2013, the complaint says.

The document continues:

Their older child died at the age of 3 while they were living in the house, and the victim said surgery he underwent extended their stay longer than anticipated. He said the family planned to move out at the end of February.

James admitted to police he had been "full of rage" for months about the situation, calling his stepson "thieving" and "lying."

The same morning as the incident with the ax, James told police he took a drive, returned home and smoked some cigarettes. At that point: “Well, I grabbed an axe out of the garage and I tried to kill my wife’s son,” he told police.

James said the victim started stalling when he was asked to leave the house, so he swung the ax at his stepson, aiming for his head.

“I had two hands on it and I swung it at him like in a half chop motion, like you would at a baseball,” he said, adding he "missed."

When asked how his stepson's face was bleeding if he missed, James told police, “Well, I must of caught him. He must of pulled his head back.”

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