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Local News

Minooka man pleads guilty to 2nd-degree murder for killing ex's son

James F. Hess, 67, Minooka
James F. Hess, 67, Minooka

A Minooka man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the killing of his former girlfriend’s son only hours after the younger man was released from prison. 

On April 17, 2017, James F. Hess, 67, was charged with first-degree murder three days after he killed Nathan A. Hofkamp. Hofkamp is the son of Kathy Hofkamp, Hess’ former girlfriend. 

On April 14, Nathan Hofkamp was released from prison after serving time for theft and aggravated assault. His mother held a small party at the residence she shared with Hess. 

During the party, Hess reportedly insisted on everyone going to bed, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Nathan Hofkamp’s daughter. At some point, Hess retrieved a handgun from the basement and pointed it at his girlfriend and her son, according to the lawsuit.

When Nathan Hofkamp tried to disarm Hess, he was fatally shot, according to the lawsuit.

On Wednesday, the first-degree murder charge was dismissed, and Hess was charged with second-degree murder, according to court records. He pleaded guilty the same day.

Will County State’s Attorney’s spokeswoman Carole Cheney said she couldn’t comment on why Hess was charged with second-degree murder instead of first-degree murder.

“It’s still an ongoing matter,” she said.

Hess will be sentenced June 26. 

The wrongful death lawsuit filed against Hess still is pending in court. The case is scheduled for a status hearing Thursday.

Hess was arrested and jailed on a
$1 million bond, but he was able to post 10% of it for his release. He was subject to an order of protection from Kathy Hofkamp, according to court records.

The protective order prohibited Hess from being within 1,000 feet of Kathy Hofkamp or their residence. However, Judge Elizabeth Hoskins-Dow made an order in 2017 for Kathy Hofkamp to relinquish the property to Hess in 30 days.

Hess was charged with battery in 2011 and granted court supervision, according to court records.

He also was given court supervision in 2010 for a charge of property damage in connection with a 2009 incident.

In 2010, charges of domestic battery and interfering with a report of domestic violence were dropped against Hess.

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