Stanley: 40 years later, family recalls Stateville guard killed in line of duty
By Brian Stanley Life of Brianemail@example.com January 5, 2013 6:44PM
Lucille Zieger stands by the plaque at Stateville prison that honors here late husband, James Zieger, who was killed by an inmate on Jan. 11, 1973. | submitted photo
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:27AM
Lucille was 15 years old when she met James Zeiger in 1948. Her neighbor liked James’ brother and wanted a one-time double date for a football game.
“What I liked the most is he was always a gentleman (with) a lot of charisma,” she recalled 65 years later.
After meeting again the next year, James and Lucille were inseparable. They married when she was 19 and he was 23.
By 1970 the couple had eight children, which led them to find a bigger home in Romeoville. Instead of commuting to Chicago, James sought a job that was closer — becoming a guard at Stateville Correctional Center.
James telling Lucille not to worry about him at the prison was effective enough that she got herself a job in the mail room two years later.
“Depending on his schedule we’d sometimes eat lunch together. He always smiled when he walked in to see me there,” Lucille said.
On Jan. 11, 1973, Lucille was called to the warden’s office, which is where she thought she was being promoted while she walked over.
Instead she was told her husband had just been murdered in Cellhouse B.
“It was the furthest thing from my mind. I remember screaming. I yelled ‘My Jim’ and then my next thought was about my kids,” she said.
Lucille Zeiger said telling her children what had happened was much more difficult then hearing it for herself.
About 9 a.m., the 43-year-old prison officer was working on the fourth gallery when an inmate started arguing with him. Paul H. Goffmann, 32, wanted a painting of Angela Davis that was hanging in another prisoner’s cell. When Zeiger told Goffman that he was too busy then to talk about the painting, the convict pulled a knife from his pants and screamed, “Die, pig. Die.”
Zeiger was stabbed eight times with one wound through the heart. Goffman then pushed the dying man over the railing to a concrete floor 40 feet below.
Goffman, who would’ve been released in 1974 from a four-year stretch for robbery, was sentenced to 75 to 150 years for Zeiger’s murder and transferred to Menard prison. He died behind bars Sept. 7, 2004.
Lucille spent three weeks away from Stateville to grieve, but with seven of her children still in school, she had to work. She later would transfer to the records office of the Collins Street prison but remained with the Department of Corrections for 23 years.
In the 40 years since James Zeiger’s murder, his children have given Lucille eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“I never forget him. It still hurts sometime and I wonder what would my life be like if he was still here,” Lucille said. “My kids still cry sometimes, but I don’t. In front of them, I’m strong.”
Lucille believes her husband would be proudest to see that his own children raised their own families by following his example of tough love and respect.
Last month, about 30 family members visited Stateville where a plaque hangs in honor of James Zeiger. Lucille was the first in the group to walk up and touch it, followed in turn by each relative. She was pleased to see her children could show their father’s recognition to their own families for the first time.
“As I walked over, I knew he was there with all of us,” Lucille said. “And seeing (the grandchildren and great-grandchildren), he told me, ‘Just look what we started.’ ”