On Wednesday, an Anaheim, California man was convicted murder after he killed his wife and propped her body on the family’s couch for her kids to open their Christmas presents in 2011.
It’s been nine years since the Orange County authorities apprehended and charged William Wallace, now 39, with the murder of his 26-year-old Za’Zell Preston. But, an Orange County Superior Court jury found Wallace guilty of second-degree murder this week.
William Wallace Has Been Convicted on Second-Degree Murder Charges After Killing His Girlfriend Who He Regularly Battered.
During the trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown described Preston’s death as the culmination of a history of domestic violence carried out by Wallace, and said that he failed to call 911 despite his injured wife bleeding from a head injury, the Orange County Register reported.
“He had been threatening to kill her for three years,” prosecutors said. “And on Christmas, he made good on those threats.”
Meanwhile, Wallace’s attorney, Heather Moorhead, argued that Preston’s death was “heartbreaking,” but not Wallace’s fault.
“Both of them were drunk, and the injuries that ultimately caused her death were not caused by Mr. Wallace,” Moorhead claimed. “There are no facts in this case that show Mr. Wallace intended to kill.”
Preston had been pursuing dreams of becoming a domestic-violence counselor, ORC reported, motivated partly by her own experiences with Wallace, who had served time in jail for beating her and had been under a restraining order before persuading Preston to get back together with him.
Jurors had to weigh a variety of charges to deliberate from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder. They were also tasked with listening to testimony about the night Preston died and the following Christmas morning.
Preston’s relatives characterized Wallace as controlling and violent, and claimed he had threatened to kill Preston on several occasions. Preston’s grandmother testified to finding Preston laying in the fetal position in the street after one alleged beating, and on another occasion receiving a call from Preston while she hid from Wallace in a convenience-store bathroom.
The couple were living in an apartment together with their newborn and Preston’s two young daughters who were three and eight-years-old at the time. The children were home the night of the incident and said that Wallace and Preston had attended a Christmas party at a neighbor’s home.
Preston’s oldest daughter, now 17, testified at the trial and said that the couple returned from the party arguing. She remembered the confrontation escalating and eventually, it turned violent.
The 17-year-old continued her harrowing testimony and she said she witnessed Wallace push her mom into a glass table. After which, Wallace made her help him remove shards of broken glass from her mother. He then carried Preston’s body into a bathroom to continue cleaning her up when he dropped her in a way that caused Preston’s head to land on a toilet.
“After she hit the toilet, and I think she was passed away, he just took her to the bedroom and put her down to sleep while she was deceased,” she said at the trial. “That is what I remember, because she was cold.”
The next morning, she said she awoke and went to the living room to open present. She testified that Preston dragged her mother’s lifeless body into the room and propped her on a couch. “I remember trying to touch my mom and she was just rock hard, cold and I said, ‘Mommy,’ and she didn’t respond,” the daughter said.
At the beginning of the trial, prosecutors told the jury that Wallace had made a call to Preston’s grandmother that Christmas morning and explained that he and Preston had been drinking and he told her “I tossed her around a bit,” later adding that he was “on my way to the penitentiary.”
“A young mother finally losing her life after years of violence at the hands of her husband is a heart wrenching tragedy,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer in a statement. “That heartbreak is only exacerbated by the fact that her children witnessed much of the violence and were forced to celebrate Christmas in the presence of their dead mother. That is not a Christmas memory any child should be forced to have.”
Wallace, who has remained behind bars since his Dec. 25, 2011 arrest, is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on June 4. He faces up to 15 years to life in prison, the statement also said.
What a horrible tragedy. We hope that the children who survived Preston feels as if some justice has been served.
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