California Man Who Propped Dead Wife Up on Sofa as Children Opened Xmas Presents Found Guilty of Murder
“Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas,” he had told the children.
William Wallace has been convicted of second-degree murder.
After a day of deliberations, jurors found the 39-year-old guilty of killing his wife Za’Zell Preston on Christmas day, a decade ago.
In her closing argument, Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said he had “He repeatedly threatened to kill her,” before finally making good on his promise.
He was “beating her in the head — that’s the kill zone,” she said, per ABC7. “That’s why she’s dead. He hit her in the head over and over… all the injuries to her head killed her.”
When police found the crime scene it “looked like a scene from The Shining,” she said; she dismissed Wallace’s claim she had gotten drunk and fallen, pointing out: “Even if you believe this was an accident, his failing to get medical attention is implied malice murder.”
Jurors had been instructed to consider the more serious charge of first-degree murder — meaning it was premeditated — but also the lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter (in the heat of the moment, with provocation) or involuntary manslaughter (in that he did not mean to kill her).
In the end they settled on second-degree murder, for which he will be sentenced on June 4.
The murder trial of a California man has heard how he tried to fool his children into believing she was still alive on Christmas morning.
William Wallace is accused of murdering his wife, 26-year-old Za’Zell Preston, on Christmas Eve 2011; his trial began on Monday.
“This Christmas story does not have a happy ending, and unfortunately this is not just a story, it is real life,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown told jurors, Mercury News reported.
She described a violent relationship leading to her death, claiming he had threatened to kill his wife on several occasions, and how one relative said they once found her, while she was pregnant, lying in the fetal position in the middle of the street following a beating.
On the night of her death, the couple went to a Christmas Eve party at a neighbor’s, before returning home to their newborn son, and Preston’s daughters, then aged eight and three.
According to Brown, one neighbor heard them arguing, while another reported seeing him picking up what appeared to be a body at the apartment gate.
She said Wallace admitted to his in-laws that “we were drinking and during the argument I tossed her around a bit”, and that she had tried to flee the home but he caught her outside and brought her back into the apartment.
The following morning, Brown claimed Wallace dragged his wife’s body from the bedroom to the living room couch, sat her down and put sunglasses on her, before telling the children to open their Christmas presents.
“Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas,” he allegedly told them.
When paramedics arrived, the body was still slumped on the sofa. Police found bloodstains all over the apartment, as well as holes punched in walls and a door torn from its hinges.
Wallace’s defense attorney Heather Moorhead told a different story: that Preston had got drunk and fell through a glass table.
“Mr. Wallace is being accused of something that is not his fault,” she told jurors. “You will hear about a relationship that was full of arguing and yelling, but also a lot of love.”
She said the eight-year-old had seen her mother trip before Wallace could stop her. She said the little girl helped pull all the glass out of her mother’s body and clean her wounds.
According to Moorhead, Wallace then carried her to the bathtub, but her head struck something else on the way.
She said her client had told multiple people that his wife had suffered a concussion after falling and hitting her head the previous night, and had not woken up.
However, the prosecution also pointed out he told one in-law he was “on my way to the penitentiary” after her death.
On the opening day of the trial, jurors also heard that months before she was killed, Preston had enrolled in classes in the hopes of becoming a domestic violence counsellor.
Wallace, who has been in jail in lieu of a $1million bail since his December 25, 2011 arrest, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of first degree murder.