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A California man who was found guilty of the 2011 killing of his wife — who he then propped up while her children opened Christmas presents — has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
After attending a neighbor’s Christmas Eve party, William Wallace, 39, murdered his wife, 26-year-old Za’Zell Preston, the Associated Press reported. Prosecutors said that the following morning, he dragged her corpse from their bedroom to the living room couch, where he propped her up to make her look alive, according to the Orange County Register. He then placed sunglasses over her eyes and told her three kids that “Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas.”
The children, whom Preston had from a previous relationship, were 7-weeks old, 3-years-old, and 8-years-old at the time.
Wallace was handed the sentence on Friday and given credit for the nine years he has already served behind bars. His attorney had tried to argue during the trial that Preston died from injuries after she drunkenly tripped and fell into a glass table.
“Mr. Wallace is being accused of something that is not his fault,” Heather Moorhead told jurors, according to the Orange County Register. “You will hear about a relationship that was full of arguing and yelling, but also a lot of love.”
However, the jury didn't seem to be buying that story. They convicted him of second-degree murder in April.
The slain mother's family gave emotional statements in court. Her daughter, then 18, testified how she discovered that her mother's body was cold.
“He beat and tortured my daughter and at the same time mentally assassinated her children,” Preston’s mother said at the sentencing hearing, according to the Orange County Register. “He showed her no mercy. Let’s show him no mercy.”
Wallace had already served jail time for physically assaulting Preston before her death. She was taking college classes in hopes of becoming a domestic violence counselor, prosecutors noted during the trial.
“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 stated in April, following the 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.
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