A Southern California man who murdered his wife — an aspiring domestic violence counselor — and leaned her body on a couch while her children opened Christmas presents has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
William Wallace, 39, of Anaheim, was convicted in April of second-degree murder for the 2011 murder of 26-year-old Za’Zell Preston.
Authorities said Preston was repeatedly assaulted by Wallace during the marriage.
Preston’s mother spoke at his sentencing hearing, the Orange County Register reported.
William Wallace, 39 (left), of Anaheim, California, has been sentenced to 15 years to life for the death of his wife, mother of three, Za’Zell Preston (right) in December 2011.
“He beat and tortured my daughter and mentally killed her children at the same time,” Saidell Preston said. ‘He showed her no mercy. Let’s show him no mercy.’
Prosecutors said Preston was attending college in hopes of becoming a domestic violence counselor when she was beaten to death on December 24 or early 25, 2011, by Wallace, who had already served a prison sentence for her assault.
Prosecutors said the couple went to a neighbor’s Christmas Eve party, and a neighbor said he heard an argument later that night.
Preston tried to flee, but Wallace dragged her back into the apartment and continued his attack.
The next morning, according to the prosecution, Wallace dragged his wife’s body from the bedroom to the living room couch, put on her sunglasses and told the children, “Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas.”
Prosecutors said that after beating Preston to death, Wallace leaned her dead body on a sofa and then had her children open their Christmas presents to her dead body.
He then had them open their Christmas presents in the presence of their late mother, authorities said.
Wallace’s attorney argued that Preston died of injuries after she tripped drunk and fell into a glass table, shattering it.
Preston was slumped on the couch when the ambulance arrived. She left behind a 7-week-old son and two daughters from a previous relationship, who were 3 and 8 years old at the time.
After Preston was found dead, Wallace is said to have told one of her relatives that he was ‘on his way to prison’.
He also told relatives that he was defending himself against Preston.
Wallace claimed it was Preston who attacked him, bit him and she fell and hit her head while defending himself.
Wallace told one of Preston’s relatives that “we drank and during the argument I tossed her a bit,” the prosecutor said.
Prosecutors said Preston was attending college in hopes of becoming a domestic violence counselor when she was beaten to death by Wallace, who had already served time for assaulting her.
Investigators said they found bloodstains all over the house. Holes were also punched in the wall and a door was knocked off its hinges.
Wallace’s attorney said at his trial that after Preston fell on the table, her oldest daughter removed glass from her mother’s body and helped clean her wounds.
Wallace then moved Preston into a bathtub, but her head hit something else in the bathroom.
Lorri Galloway, an old friend of Preston’s, who was also an Anaheim city councillor, shared: The Orange County Registry that Wallace regularly beat Preston during their three-year relationship.
Galloway, who ran a home for abused women and children, said she and others begged Preston to leave Wallace.
“This is the story of a girl who had access to resources, but she thought she could handle it,” Galloway said.
On July 29, 2011, Preston posted a photo of her and Wallace kissing on Facebook under the caption “Lovebirds for life”
“These men are experts at apologizing. The women think they can change them.’
In 2008, Wallace was convicted of battery charges against a cohabitant. He was sentenced to 45 days in prison, probation and had to attend a treatment program from an abuser.
Shortly after, Preston was given a restraining order against Wallace, but relatives said he managed to convince her to forgive him several times.
Wallace was arrested at least twice for violating the restraining order. Nevertheless, Preston would visit him in prison.
At one point, when she was pregnant with Wallace’s child, she visited him behind bars, where he told her that he had “found Jesus.”
“He would live a man of faith,” Galloway told her. “She believed it.”
Preston told her mother and grandmother that she intended to marry Wallace.
“We begged her not to marry this man,” her mother, Saidell Preston, told OCR.
“I told her I had a bad feeling she would marry him,” said her grandmother, Sallie Baker.
In the summer of 2011, just months before her death, Wallace was released from prison. Preston allowed him to move into her apartment in Anaheim.
On July 29, 2011, she posted a photo of her and Wallace kissing on Facebook under the caption, “Wizard Birds for Life.”
District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement in April: “A young mother who finally loses her life after years of violence at the hands of her husband is a heartbreaking tragedy.
That heartbreak is only compounded by the fact that her children witnessed much of the violence and were forced to celebrate Christmas in the presence of their late mother. That’s not a Christmas memory a child should have.”