Wisconsin State Journal: Madison man charged in killings; two victims remain hospitalized

A Madison man who allegedly gunned down several family members at a Chicago home Wednesday was charged Thursday with four counts of murder, among other charges, Chicago police said.

James Larry, 32, allegedly killed his pregnant wife, Twanda Thompson, 19, his infant son, Jihad, 7 months, and two nieces, Keyshai Fields, 16, and Keleasha Larry, 3.

In addition to four counts of felony first-degree murder, police said Larry was charged with four counts of attempted first-degree murder and two felony counts of intentional homicide of an unborn child. The medical examiner’s office said both Thompson and Fields were pregnant.

Larry is scheduled to appear in bond court Friday morning.

Also shot and injured were James Larry’s mother, Leona Larry Burton, 57, of Madison, and his nephew, Demond Larry, 13. Police said Larry also shot at another girl who ran from the house.

Burton remained in critical condition on life support Thursday night at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., a spokesman for the hospital said. The hospital would not give Demond Larry’s condition because he is a minor.

Janice Reese, Larry Burton’s sister-in-law, said Larry Burton’s husband, Frederick Burton of Madison, was on a bus to Chicago on Thursday to decide whether to continue the life support.

Larry’s actions ‘not from Islam’

A law enforcement source Wednesday said Larry told police he was hearing voices that told him to bring his family to Allah.

But Larry was not a familiar face at Madison-area mosques and was not espousing views consistent with Islam, according to Muslim officials in Madison and Chicago.

Larry and Thompson were married at a Madison mosque but the person who married them had not met them before the ceremony and never saw them again, according to Amina Sharif, spokeswoman for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

She declined to name the mosque. The marriage ceremony was March 19, according to court records.

James Larry’s sister told the Chicago Sun-Times that her brother became a Muslim while in federal prison and had recently begun making ominous comments about angels and demons. She said he carried the Quran and had said that something in the Muslim holy book instructed him to kill someone.

Safwan Shoukfeh, administrator of Madinah Academy of Madison, an Islamic school, said Thursday it was “very discouraging” that Islam has become part of the tragedy’s narrative.

“There is nothing in the Quran that would encourage such actions,” he said. “It simply comes down to being sick in his brain.”

The extreme messages Larry allegedly was espousing “are not from Islam, pure and simple,” said Muhammad Abdullah, an Imam, or spiritual leader, who is in charge of Islamic services at Oakhill Correctional Institution near Madison.

Both Shoukfeh and Abdullah said they often go to mosques in the Madison area and had never seen or heard of Larry.

Particularly troubling to Abdullah was that Larry had named his son Jihad. The Islamic term comes from an Arabic noun meaning “struggle,” but its connotation in western societies is inflammatory and often understood as “war on behalf of Islam.”

“Not a lot of Muslims name their children Jihad,” Abdullah said. “That really jumped out at me. A person who would do that is extreme.”