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Traci Wolfe was convicted of killing her husband, Blake Wolfe, on the morning of Thanksgiving 2012. Now, Traci is talking about what led to a murder so gruesome that responders couldn’t initially determine how the victim died in his bed.
“There was never a plan to harm that man or to kill him,” Traci Wolfe told “Snapped: Behind Bars,” airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. “Did it happen that way? It did … I’m heartbroken that this had to take place.”
On the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2012, Blake’s stepfather went to check on him when Blake’s ex-wife couldn’t reach him by phone. What he found was something that would shake the small town of Windham, Ohio to its core
“When the coroner’s investigators showed up, he felt there might have been a gunshot,” said former Windham Police Chief Gene Fixler. “The mortal wounds that were inflicted were found to be not a gunshot.”
Police didn’t know the whereabouts of Blake’s current wife, 40-year-old Traci Wolfe.
Traci grew up in the town of Windham. At 16, she became pregnant with her high school sweetheart. While her boyfriend chose to be a part of their child’s life, Traci soon moved to Florida to be with her father and sister. There, she married her first husband and had three more children.
But tragedy struck 16 years later when Traci’s brother died by suicide back in Ohio.
“It was the least thing I ever expected from him,” said a tearful Traci from the Dayton Correctional Institution. “He was the life of every party. He was my best friend.”
Friends said the tragedy took Traci into a state of darkness. Traci admitted that she coped with her brother’s death by drinking alcohol, but that after nearly two years, she became sober and created a better life for herself and her family.
Until tragedy struck once more.
“My son, Zachary, followed the footsteps of my older brother and committed suicide the exact same way my older brother did,” said Traci.
Zachary, Traci’s oldest child, had been picked up by police. While in custody, he hung himself in his jail cell.
“I just felt so empty,” admitted Traci. “There was something missing that I never got back when I lost my son.”
In the midst of grief, Traci began to drink once more. Meanwhile, her marriage in Florida continued to deteriorate, and soon, she took to Facebook to find companionship, where she met Windham native Blake Wolfe.
Before meeting Traci, Blake married his first wife, Dusty, with whom he shared two children. Friends and family described him as a devoted and loving father. About 10 years later, the marriage soured, and Dusty decided to end the relationship. The breakup took Blake to a dark place, and that’s when he met Traci, who was battling her own demons.
Two months into the online relationship, Traci left her husband in Florida to be with Blake. In what experts described as a “trauma bond,” the couple proved that misery does love company, and alcohol was the common denominator in their lives.
Traci’s kids lived with their father back in Florida, while Blake shared custody with his former wife.
“Our relationship, in the beginning, was very loving,” explained Traci. “He was very attentive, he never belittled me, he told me how beautiful I was, what a good housewife I was. I was getting to know his children. They were warming up to me. They were beautiful children.”
Nine months after Traci moved in, she and Blake married.
Traci described the first two or three months as a honeymoon phase, and the newlyweds were happy. But alcohol continued to be at the center of their marriage, and less than two years later, it would take a deadly toll.
On Thanksgiving Day, investigators found Blake sustained more than 20 blunt strikes to the head. From the garage, pieces of unfinished drywall had been removed, where detectives believed one or more perpetrators entered the locked home. Blake’s wallet and phone were missing, leading them to believe this could have been a burglary gone south. But other rooms, and other valuable items, were left undisturbed.
“We automatically thought it was Traci,” said Blake’s mother.
Authorities learned that two months before Blake’s death, he’d filed for divorce from Traci. Blake kicked her out of the home, and they became estranged. Traci had called the police on several occasions and alleged domestic violence, and on some occasions, Blake also called the police and pointed the finger at Traci.
The divorce was to be finalized after Thanksgiving weekend, just days after Blake’s violent death.
The rumor mills of Windham began to turn. Word got back to Traci as she ate Thanksgiving dinner at her mother’s house, so she called the sheriff’s office to tell them where she was.
“I just wanted to be upfront and honest,” said Traci. “No matter how painful this journey is going to be.”
Traci initially denied any involvement and even became physically sick when investigators showed her the crime scene photos. But she also told detectives that Blake was prone to violence and that when they were sober, Blake promised to change.
The twist came when detectives asked Traci where she was on the night of the murder. Though Traci initially gave a false account of her whereabouts, police learned she had a new boyfriend, a local man named Tom Walters. Traci claimed Walters was only a friend.
Authorities let her leave, but while detectives drove her home, Traci told them to turn around: She was ready to tell her side of the story.
“I just remember feeling … the gig’s up. It was just a matter of time, and the longer that I tried to wiggle around and tell different stories, it was just going to make me look worse,” said Traci. “And I didn’t want my children to see their mom in that light, and I didn’t want to do that to my family or to his family. Everybody deserved the truth.”
Traci admitted to police that she and Walters were more than just friends. Walters was an old acquaintance and had long carried a torch for Traci. On the night of the murder, Traci was at Walters’ house, where the two of them drank alcohol into the early hours of Thanksgiving morning. Traci gave Walters details about the abuse she’d allegedly suffered at the hands of Blake.
It was the middle of the night, and Tom decided Blake should pay for what he’d done. An inebriated Traci agreed, and to Blake’s house they went.
“I said, ‘I don’t want Blake to be killed,’” Traci said in a taped interview. “I don’t want anything bad. He’s, you know, a good dad.’”
Traci said she and Tom collected several items to use as weapons, including a baseball bat and a hammer, and Tom covered the seats of his car with plastic. She admitted that the doors to Blake’s house were locked, and so she and Tom tore through the drywall in the garage and snuck into the home.
Traci told authorities she waited halfway up the stairs while Tom went into Blake’s bedroom and beat him. Traci claimed not to know that Blake was dead.
They returned to Tom’s home, where they burned the weapons before falling asleep. Hours later, they went to Traci’s mother’s house and celebrated Thanksgiving.
Tom, however, told a different version of events to authorities.
Tom’s account matched Traci’s up until they arrived at Blake’s bedroom, where he claimed it was actually Traci who beat her husband to death. Tom said he waited in the hallway and heard the whole thing.
“She’s got a hammer in her hand,” Tom told detectives in the taped interview. “I know what the plan is; I know what she’s going to do to him… I don’t think anybody could have stopped her.”
Investigators believed Tom went with Traci out of fierce loyalty, having been in love with her since they were young. Tom confessed that they dated back when they were teenagers, and detectives said he’d been obsessed with her ever since.
The next day, authorities charged both Traci Wolfe and Tom Walters with aggravated murder. But given Traci’s inebriated state at the time of Blake’s death, coupled with past reports of domestic violence, prosecutors knew it wasn’t going to be an easy case.
Traci eventually pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for life in prison without parole.
For the first time, Traci admitted what set off the events leading her to want to hurt Blake. It was a phone call that took place the day before Thanksgiving.
“Blake had called me and told me he filed for divorce. I said, ‘I did too.’ He goes, ‘What do you want from me?’ I said, ‘I don’t want nothing, I don’t even want your last name, I’ll even pay for that to be changed,’” admitted Tracy. “And he said, ‘If you were half the woman you think you are, maybe your son would still be alive.’”
Traci warned him to “sleep with one eye open.”
“Grabbing that hammer showed I had intent,” said Traci. “I was angry. I wanted to hurt him. Did I have an intention to kill him? Absolutely not.”
As part of her plea deal, Traci admitted to taking part in the beating of Blake Wolfe. She confessed to remembering every detail of striking Blake with the hammer but claimed she didn’t know she’d killed him. Traci said she took his wallet, phone, and glasses, hoping he’d wake up not knowing what happened.
“And I do remember telling Tom, ‘He’s gonna feel that in the morning, and he ain’t gonna know what to do cuz he ain’t gonna find his glasses, he ain’t gonna find his phone to call for help,’” said Traci. “And then Tom did go in there, and I watched. He swung so hard, I could hear the wind. And he smashed Blake in the face. Not once, but twice, and I heard the cracking.”
From Dayton Correctional Institute, Traci says she lives with remorse for her actions.
“Hearing the victim impact statements, seeing how it affected everybody, what I had done to everybody, that truly impacted me more than the rest of my life in prison,” Traci cried.
Producers from "Snapped: Behind Bars" gave Traci the opportunity to speak to Blake’s children.
“I failed you miserably when I made a choice to go and harm your dad, and I don’t expect you to forgive me,” said Traci. “And he truly didn’t deserve what I took to that house that night. And I will always, eternally, be sorry for taking the best man of your life away.”
She also asked for forgiveness from her own children.
Traci Wolfe hopes her story can be a cautionary tale against the dangers of alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
Tom Walters also pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and is serving life without the possibility of parole.
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