SANTA ANA, Calif. — A Southern California man who killed his wife and propped up her body on a sofa as her children opened Christmas presents was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder.
William Wallace, 39, of Anaheim could face 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in June, the Orange County district attorney’s office said in a statement.
Za’Zell Preston, 26, was taking college classes in hopes of becoming a domestic violence counselor when she was fatally beaten on Dec. 24 or early Dec. 25 in 2011 by Wallace, who already had served jail time for beating her, the statement said.
Prosecutors said the couple had gone to a neighbor’s Christmas Eve party, and a neighbor described hearing an argument later that night.
The next morning, according to the prosecution, Wallace dragged his wife’s body from the bedroom to the living room couch, placed sunglasses on her and told the children: “Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas.”
He then had them open their Christmas presents, authorities said.
Wallace’s attorney argued that Preston died from injuries after she drunkenly tripped and fell into a glass table, shattering it.
Preston was slumped over on the couch when paramedics arrived. She left a 7-week-old son and two daughters from a previous relationship, who were then 3 and 8 years old.
“A young mother finally losing her life after years of violence at the hands of her husband is a heart-wrenching tragedy,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in the 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.”