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St. Louis assistant circuit attorney killed in I-270 crash

Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed 32-year-old James Heitman died in the crash.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — An assistant circuit attorney who worked in St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner's office died Wednesday evening after getting into a crash on Interstate 270.

A Missouri State Highway Patrol crash report confirmed the fatality, identifying the victim as 32-year-old James Heitman.

"He was a great young man, always professional, and this is a terrible loss. Condolences to his family," Judge Scott Millikan said.

Heitman was assigned to the General Felonies Unit and Millikan’s division.

5 On Your Side obtained an email sent to all judges that said, "ACA James Heitman was tragically killed in a car accident this evening. Please keep his entire family in your prayers."

Gardner, who announced Thursday afternoon that she was stepping down as St. Louis Circuit Attorney, released the following statement regarding Heitman's passing Thursday morning:

"I’m shocked and saddened to announce that one of our dedicated ACA’s, Mr. James Heitman, died in a car accident last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his CAO family at this tragic time."

The crash happened at about 5:15 Wednesday evening on I-270 southbound near Interstate 55. Four vehicles were involved.

According to MSHP, a GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Malibu and Chrysler Aspen in the second-most right lane slowed for traffic ahead of them. Heitman, driving a Toyota Camry, changed lanes from the right lane, into the next lane, where the other vehicles were. The report said he didn't see traffic had slowed in front of him, causing him to crash into the back of the Aspen.

That caused the front of the Aspen to hit the back of the Malibu, causing the front of the Malibu to hit the back of the Acadia. The Malibu, Aspen and the Camry all caught fire after the impact.

Heitman and the driver of the Aspen were taken to a local hospital, where Heitman died from his injuries. The driver of the Aspen had minor injuries.

The southbound lanes of the highway were closed for hours Wednesday while troopers investigated. 

5 On Your Side spoke to Judge Tim Boyer on Wednesday. 

Boyer said his office was in shock over Heitman's death, adding that Heitman had been scheduled to be in his courtroom Thursday morning.  Boyer said he would see Heitman two or three times a week in his courtroom and described him as very kind.

Heitman attended the Saint Louis University School of Law and graduated in 2018. The law school shared the following statement:

"The law school is heartbroken by the tragic passing of one of our alums, James Heitman. He dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice and was truly a man for and with others. He was beloved by many in our community and was a loyal friend to those who knew him well. We ask for prayers and peace for his family, friends, and colleagues as they grieve his loss."

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