An Anaheim man who killed his wife and then propped her body up on a sofa while her children opened Christmas presents in 2011 was sentenced Friday, June 4, to 15 years to life in prison.
William Wallace, now 39, was convicted earlier this year of second-degree murder for killing 26-year-old Za’Zell Preston, the culmination of a relationship marked by repeated domestic abuse.
Preston’s mother, during Friday’s sentencing hearing, described Wallace as a psychopath with a hair-trigger temper who cared only about himself.
“He beat and tortured my daughter and at the same time mentally assassinated her children,” Saidell Preston said. “He showed her no mercy. Let’s show him no mercy.”
The mother – who has become the guardian of Preston’s three children – noted that her daughter was weeks away from graduating from Cypress College when she was killed. Preston had been studying domestic violence, hoping to become a counselor.
“William Wallace robbed us of her knowledge, wisdom and understanding,” Saidell Preston said. “Za’Zell was an amazing and talented young woman, until (he) came along and took her from us forever.”
Wallace did not speak during Friday’s hearing. As part of his sentence, Wallace was given credit for the more than nine years he has already spent behind bars while awaiting trial.
On Christmas Eve on 2011, Wallace and Preston returned from a party at a neighbor’s home to the Anaheim apartment the couple was sharing with their newborn son and Preston’s daughters, who at the time were three and eight years old.
During Wallace’s trial, her oldest daughter, who is still a minor, described Wallace and Preston arguing, a confrontation she said turned physical when Wallace pushed Preston into a glass table.
The daughter helped Wallace pull pieces of glass from Preston’s body, she testified, then Wallace carried Preston into a bathroom to clean up her body, dropping her and knocking her head into the side of a toilet seat on the way. The daughter said her mother’s body was cold as Wallace took her into their bedroom.
Hours later, on Christmas morning, the daughter described Wallace dragging Preston’s body into their living room and placing it onto a couch before telling the two girls to open gifts. According to prosecutors, Wallace told the children, “Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas.”
Relatives of Preston during the trial described Wallace as controlling and violent. They said there were previous incidents of domestic abuse and that Wallace had threatened to kill Preston on several occasions. Preston’s grandmother testified to finding her laying in the fetal position in a street after one alleged beating at the hands of Wallace, and about another occasion when Preston called her on a cell phone for help while hiding from Wallace in a convenience-store bathroom.
In a statement read to the court on Friday, Lorri Galloway, a former Anaheim councilwoman and the executive director of the Eli Home for abused women and children, said Preston attempted to escape from Wallace numerous times.
“She desperately tried but was savagely beaten and murdered before she could,” Galloway wrote.
Wallace’s attorney, Heather Moorhead, denied during the trial that Wallace intended to kill Preston or was responsible for the fatal injuries Preston sustained in what the defense attorney described as a drunken argument.
Jurors were tasked with considering a variety of possible charges – from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder – as they sifted through testimony from witnesses that in some cases appeared to be at odds with statements they gave nearly a decade earlier in the hours after Preston’s death.
During the opening of the trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown described a phone call Wallace made to Preston’s grandmother on Christmas morning. The prosecutor, recounting the grandmother’s description, alleged that Wallace said he and Preston had been drinking and “I tossed her around a bit.”
But during her testimony, the grandmother, now 90, didn’t recall Wallace using the word “tossing,” instead remembering Wallace saying he and Preston were “drinking and horsing around.”
The defense attorney also noted during the trial that Preston’s older daughter initially told detectives that her mother had tripped and fallen into a table before Wallace could stop her. The daughter testified she was scared of Wallace, and the prosecutor later told jurors that Wallace had coached the girl on what to tell investigators.
Source: Orange County Register