Man Who Killed Wife and Had Kids Open Christmas Gifts in Front of Her Dead Body Sentenced to 15 Years to Life

The couple in a dated photo.

"He beat and tortured my daughter and at the same time mentally assassinated her children," Saidell Preston said. "He showed her no mercy. Let’s show him no mercy." 

A California man who killed his wife then propped her body on a couch and had their children open their Christmas presents in front of her, was sentenced 15 years to life on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

William Wallace, 39, was convicted of second-degree murder earlier this year for the 2011 killing of 26-year-old Za'Zell Preston. During their marriage, Preston suffered repeated abuse from Wallace, authorities said, the AP reported.

At Friday’s sentencing hearing, Preston’s mother, Saidell Preston called Wallace “a psychopath with a hair-trigger temper who only cared about himself,” the Orange County Register reported.

"He beat and tortured my daughter and at the same time mentally assassinated her children," Saidell Preston said. "He showed her no mercy. Let’s show him no mercy.”

Preston’s 18-year-old daughter, who was 8 at the time, testified that she remembers her mother’s body being cold, People reported. 

Prosecutors said Wallace had spent time in jail previously for beating his wife. 

Before the death, Preston had been taking college classes in hopes of becoming a domestic violence counselor, the DA’s office reported.

During the March trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown told jurors that Wallace “did what he always did, expecting (Preston) to survive like she always did. This Christmas story does not have a happy ending, and unfortunately, this is not just a story, it is real life,” Brown said, The Orange County Register previously reported.

The incident took place between Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, 2011, when Wallace allegedly used “blunt force trauma to the head, rendering her unconscious,” the district attorney said in a previous news release.

Wallace dragged his wife’s body from the bedroom to the living room couch, placed sunglasses on her and told the children: “Mommy got drunk and ruined Christmas,” the AP reported. 

Wallace called 911 around 9:30 a.m. to report that this wife needed medical attention. When officers from the Anaheim police department arrived they discovered that Za’Zell was unresponsive. She was transported to the hospital where she was later pronounced dead, a report said.

The victim’s 3-year-old and 8-year-old daughters from a previous relationship and the couple’s 7-week-old son were in the apartment at the time of the murder, according to a statement by the DA's office.

Wallace’s attorney argued that Preston died from injuries after she tripped and fell into a glass table, while intoxicated, the AP reported.

"A young mother finally losing her life after years of violence at the hands of her husband is a heart-wrenching tragedy,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer in a previous 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."

He continued: 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.”

If you or someone you know needs help, you can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, chat online on, or text "loveis" to 22522.

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