A California man who had his wife’s small children open Christmas gifts in front of her dead body received 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder.
William Wallace was convicted in the spring for the death of 26-year-old Za’Zell Preston. He already had been incarcerated since 2011 for beating her during another incident and received credit for time served in connection with the latest conviction during sentencing on June 4.
Sometime between Christmas Eve and Day 2011, authorities said, Wallace attacked and killed Preston, who planned to become a domestic abuse counselor.
At his murder trial in March, Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said Wallace“did what he always did, expecting [Preston] to survive like she always did,” according to The Mercury News.
“This Christmas story does not have a happy ending, and unfortunately this is not just a story, it is real life,” Brown said.
Preston died with her three children in the house — two girls from a previous relationship, ages 8 and 3, and Wallace’s newborn son.
On Christmas Day, Brown told jurors, Wallace dragged Preston’s body to their living room couch, stuck sunglasses on her and told the young children that “Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas.”
“A young mother finally losing her life after years of violence at the hands of her husband is a heart wrenching tragedy,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said after Wallace's April conviction. “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.”
“We all have an obligation to speak up against violence of any kind, especially domestic violence where the victims are so fiercely controlled by their abusers,” Spitzer noted, adding, “The cycle of domestic violence is a vicious one and I want every victim of domestic violence to know that they are not alone. No one should have to live in fear of violence in their own home.”