Champaign man gets 17 years for stabbing stepdaughter

Champaign man gets 17 years for stabbing stepdaughter

URBANA — A Champaign man who said he suffers from bipolar disorder told a judge he didn't plan to hurt his stepdaughter the day he stabbed her in the stomach.

But Judge Heidi Ladd sentenced James Burgoon, 55, who last lived in the 1200 block of North Walnut Street, to 17 years in prison on Tuesday, saying the public needed to be protected from him. Under truth-in-sentencing laws, Burgoon will have to serve at least 14 of those years.

He pleaded guilty in early June to attempted first-degree murder for repeatedly stabbing his wife's 33-year-old daughter on May 12, 2017.

Despite testimony from his former employer, developer and I Hotel owner Peter Fox, about what a stellar employee Burgoon had been for many years, Ladd said the public had to be protected.

"He wanted to extinguish her life over an argument. I can't say that won't happen again because no one thought he was capable of this," said Ladd, adding that Burgoon's myriad health problems did not slow him down the day he attacked the woman, who has children of her own.

Assistant State's Attorney Tim Sullivan said on that day in May, Burgoon and his stepdaughter argued because he wanted her to move out.

Sullivan said she was in the basement sitting on a couch when he stabbed her three times in the stomach with underhand blows, then "went for her throat." The woman put her arms up to protect her throat and received cuts to her arms instead.

"She said if not for her mom, she'd be dead," said Sullivan, asking for the 17 years.

Sullivan agreed to limit his recommendation to that when Burgoon pleaded guilty. The maximum penalty for attempted first-degree murder, a Class X felony, is 30 years in prison.

Burgoon's attorney, Ed Piraino of Champaign, had Fox and the general manager of his I Hotel, Sam Samthanam, both testify about what a great employee Burgoon had been from 2008 to 2016, when a heart attack forced him out of work.

"Literally, this was a guy available to us 24 hours a day. He was mechanically adept," Fox said of Burgoon, adding he'd rehire him if given the opportunity. Fox said he even helped with Burgoon's attorney fees.

Burgoon also testified, saying that his wife of 18 years was disabled and the two of them took care of each other. He said he suffered from many health problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and heart issues, as well as mental-health issues, for which he took 26 medications.

On the day of the attack on his stepdaughter, Burgoon said he did not intend to kill the woman.

"It was just something I had no control over," Burgoon said.

Piraino asked the judge to consider a sentence closer to the six-year minimum, saying it was unlikely Burgoon would re-offend.

He said Burgoon's wife has no one to care for her, and his house has been broken in to and items stolen.

Burgoon said since his arrest, he has not seen his wife. He's been told she's in a nursing home but he doesn't know where. He said he was sorry for what he did to his stepdaughter.

"I didn't have anything in my heart or mind to hurt her. It wasn't planned," he said. "It happened and I can't take it back. I wish I could."

Burgoon was given credit on his sentence for 15 months already served.

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