GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Kentwood middle school teacher who tried to kill his wife at their Wyoming home will spend the next 30 to 60 years in prison.
The sentencing came after his wife told the horrific details of the day he slit her throat. After she confronted him about his sexual relationship with a middle school child, James Chelekis cut her throat. He then proceeded to read her Bible verses and called his child victim as his wife was bleeding out.
The middle schooler was the one who talked him into calling 911, 55 minutes after the attack.
“He came out of the closet behind me, my head was tipped back resting on the back of the chair with my eyes closed. Standing behind me, he kissed my forehead and slit my throat from one side to the other,” said the former Amanda Chelekis, who has divorced the man who tried to kill her. She now goes by another last name but preferred to be referred to by her first name only.
She said that it was her training as a nurse that allowed her to position her head so that the blood did not fill her airways. She permanently injured her hands struggling for the knife.
Amanda faced her now ex-husband and father of their two young children in court Tuesday, where he previously pleaded guilty to attempted murder and two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct against a child.
“Someday when it is developmentally appropriate, I have to tell (my children) their father is not with us because he tried to kill me,” Amanda said as her husband wept a few feet away.
Her husband had been having sex with a 14-year-old girl for the better part of a year. Even after he was arrested and jailed, Chelekis continued to contact his child victim.
The girl’s mother wrote a letter read by Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Monica Janiskee, in which the mom said the teacher befriended the girl and her family, would pray with them and even promised to marry the girl who would sometimes babysit his children.
“He was successful at fooling colleagues, school officials and many other adults, including my husband and me, so I’m not surprised how he was able to brainwash our impressionable and vulnerable child as well,” the mother wrote.
The attorney for the teacher, Shawn Perry, said her client’s actions were the result of untreated mental illness, but Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan — a judge known for sentencing below what state guidelines usually call for — was skeptical to say the least.
“I don’t buy this mental health stuff,” Sullivan said. “You…did want her to die, you expected her to die, you wondered why it was taking so long to die.”
Before he was led to prison for the next three to six decades, Chelekis offered an apology.
“I failed… And I’m truly sorry about how I failed and hurt people I truly cared about,” he said.
Even if he manages to get out of prison, he will be on a GPS tether for the rest of his natural life.