Anaheim man who propped dead wife on couch while kids opened Christmas gifts convicted of 2nd-degree murder

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A judge's gavel is shown in a file photo. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

A judge’s gavel is shown in a file photo. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

An Anaheim man was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder for killing his wife on Christmas 2011 and then propping her body on the couch while her children opened gifts, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced.

William Wallace, 39, faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life when he is sentenced on June 4 for the slaying of his 26-year-old wife Za’Zell Preston. According to prosecutors, Wallace used “blunt force trauma to the head of his wife” and rendered her unconscious sometime between Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, 2011.

When she was killed, Preston’s young daughters from a previous relationship, ages 3 and 8, were inside the family’s apartment. The 7-week-old son she shared with Wallace was also in the home at the time, the DA’s office said.

“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 in a news release. “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.”

According to prosecutors, Wallace called 911 about 9:30 a.m. that Christmas and reported Preston was in need of medical attention. Anaheim police responded to the apartment and found her unresponsive. She was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Before being indicted by a grand jury in 2012 for his wife’s murder, prosecutors said Wallace had previously spent time in jail for beating her. 

Prior to her death, the D.A.’s office said Preston had been taking college classes in hopes of becoming a domestic violence counselor. 

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