Dumas paroled after 45 years in prison for killing teen

Local News

DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — It was at a baseball game where James A. Dumas allegedly met his accomplice for an armed robbery that ended the life of a young teen.

This accomplice was never named by Dumas. The family of 15-year-old David Grinestaff never saw him grow up — the young boy was also an honor student and on the verge of completing his Eagle Scout rank.

On Aug. 21, 1975, 31-year-old Dumas entered Bob’s Shell Gas Station, 859 East Main Street. Grinestaff, working part-time as an attendant, was shot in the chest by Dumas during a robbery. He died the next morning at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

An amount of $25 was missing from the cash register of the gas station. Records indicated the money had already been taken by the two before the teenager was shot dead — and the station manager had seen two people enter the store that night around when the shot was heard.

Dumas, now 77, left Shawnee Correctional Center on Aug 31. after 45 years of incarceration. He was originally sentenced to 150 years for his murder conviction.

Minutes of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board meeting that granted Dumas’ parole detail facts surrounding his conviction, his statement on the murder, and a history of his time in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

It portrays a 31-year-old Dumas, who was addicted to heroin and “out of control’ at the time of the murder. It added he was never in a gang and later took a six-month class to help him overcome his addiction.

The minutes noted that Dumas’ accomplice was never brought to justice. In his interview with the board, he said he didn’t know his accomplice, “indicating that they had met at a baseball game.”

Board records added Dumas had a “good institutional adjustment” and only four minor disciplinary tickets. None were issued between 1985-1999 and after 2009.

They also stated he worked as the seamstress at Shawnee and planned to open a tailoring shop following his parole.

The mother of one of his cell mates wrote in support of Dumas, saying he helped her son stay out of trouble.

His supervisor at Shawnee remarked Dumas showed nothing but respect and was very protective of her.

“She said Mr. Dumas has accepted the Lord as his Savior and is a changed man,” the minutes stated.

Melinda Power of the West Town Law Office in Chicago represented Dumas for his board hearing. She said in a telephone interview Monday the decision to grant his parole was “long overdue.”

Power added she was with happy the board member who interviewed him and how they did that twice to make sure the facts were correct.

“I’m very happy they came up with the decision they did.”

She, along with attorney Susan Ritacca, said on his behalf that they realize what Dumas has done “cannot be undone.” They told the board that he represents no threat to anyone, and that “45 years is a very long time.”

Dumas also had a 7-year-old daughter at the time of his conviction. She’s now in her 50s and he told the board that he hopes to build a relationship with her.

A petition on Change.org advocating for his parole garnished 494 signatures. It also described Dumas as a model inmate, who has “educated himself, learned from his mistakes, and continues to make amends while devoting his life to Christianity and God.”

Image posted to the ‘Free James Dumas’ petition on Change.org

It adds he has pre-existing health conditions that make him more vulnerable as time goes on. If infected with COVID-19, his chances of recovery would be low.

The board recommended Dumas for parole by a vote of 11-2.

Katherine Lee, mother of David Grinestaff, organized 24 petitions across the years advocating against his release. She drove out forms to be placed at the front desks of businesses and wrote many letters to the review board.

Her daughter, Jennifer, told WCIA in 2016 that “James just doesn’t deserve to get to live out the rest of his life as a free man.”

She never got to know her older brother. As she grew older it started “hitting home more that there’s this hole in our family where he should be.”

For the August hearing, 1,664 people signed a petition on change.org advocating against his parole.

The following statements were written by people explaining why they signed the petition:

From Change.org, ‘Illinois Prisoner Review Board: Deny James Dumas Parole’
From Change.org, ‘Illinois Prisoner Review Board: Deny James Dumas Parole’
From Change.org, ‘Illinois Prisoner Review Board: Deny James Dumas Parole’

In late August, the following update was posted:

“Thank you for your support. We found out today the Dumas will be released on parole.

“Mom is at peace with this decision.”

Prisoner Review Board Open Minutes. by Rich Flesch on Scribd

In the production of this story, WCIA reached out to an immediate family member of David Grinestaff. They declined to be interviewed.

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