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Local News

Where are they now? 3 Will County men free after convicted of killing

Local defendants initially faced first-degree murder charges

James Hess stands outside his Minooka home with one of his dogs, Itsy Bitsy. Hess was convicted of second-degree murder for shooting and killing his former girlfriend's 29-year-old son in what he claimed was self-defense. Inset: Adam Ballard (from left), James Hess and John Sadler Jr.
James Hess stands outside his Minooka home with one of his dogs, Itsy Bitsy. Hess was convicted of second-degree murder for shooting and killing his former girlfriend's 29-year-old son in what he claimed was self-defense. Inset: Adam Ballard (from left), James Hess and John Sadler Jr.

James Hess lives in a home in a fairly remote part of Minooka that has a fenced-in area by his garage for his three small dogs.

It’s the same home where Hess, 67, gunned down the son of his former girlfriend, Kathy Hofkamp, in April 2017.

Hofkamp’s 29-year-old son, Nathan Hofkamp, had been released from prison only hours earlier. He was celebrating his freedom with his mother when he was killed. Hess said he shot Hofkamp in self-defense.

Nathan Hofkamp “chased me through my house,” Hess said.

Hess said he did not find it fair that he was initially charged with first-degree murder.

“There’s no sense in having a gun to protect yourself if you can’t use it,” he said.

Hess is serving four years of probation after pleading guilty to second-degree murder this year for killing Hofkamp. He said he didn’t think he is a danger to society.

“Do I look like a danger?” Hess asked. “Do I look like an old man?”

Hess is one of three Will County men recently convicted of killing a person in three separate cases and who are now either on parole or probation.

The two others are John Sadler Jr., 76, and Adam Ballard, 20.

Sadler pleaded guilty in 2015 to involuntary manslaughter and concealing a homicide in the death of his wife.

Sadler, who still lives in the Romeoville home where he killed his wife, according to court records, served three years in prison and completed four years of probation.

Ballard, also of Romeoville, has been on parole since June 7. As part of his sentence, he was credited with serving four and half years in jail while awaiting trial.

Ballard pleaded guilty to second-degree murder this year after striking a 55-year-old man in the head with a baseball bat during a street brawl.

Attempts to reach Sadler and Ballard were unsuccessful.

Like Hess, Sadler and Ballard were initially charged with first-degree murder, but those charges were reduced as their cases progressed. In Sadler’s case, his first-degree murder charge was dropped after medical tests reportedly couldn’t prove that his wife’s fatal heart attack was caused by him striking her with a hammer.

Will County State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Carole Cheney said probationers are under the jurisdiction of the county and parolees under that of the state.

Before Judge Dave Carlson sentenced Hess to probation, he called the incident that led to Nathan Hofkamp’s death “tragic.”

“You will have to deal with this obviously for the rest of your days,” Carlson told Hess.

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