*The California man accused of murdering his wife, and then propping up her dead body on a couch as their kids opened Christmas presents, was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder.
According to the Mercury News, William Wallace, 39, allegedly killed his wife, Za’Zell Preston, 26, during an argument on Christmas Eve 2011. Wallace had a history of violence against Preston and he reportedly threatened to kill her on multiple occasions. The victim was studying to become a domestic violence counselor at the time of her death.
Wallace, 39, used “blunt force trauma” to knock Preston unconscious, according to investigators. He then propped her body on the couch with sunglasses on and told the children…“Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas,” according to prosecutors.
Per PEOPLE, Wallace’s two daughters were 8 and 3 years old at the time of the killing. The couple also shared a 7-week-old newborn. The victim’s oldest daughter, now 17, testified against Wallace and described the details that she remembered from that fateful night.
According to the report, she recalled Wallace pushing her mother onto a glass table and asking the then-8-year-old to help pull glass out of her body. Wallace then dragged his wife’s body into the bathroom before moving her to the bedroom.
“After she hit the toilet, and I think she was passed away, he just took her to the bedroom and put her down to sleep while she was deceased,” the daughter said, according to the Orange County Register. “That is what I remember because she was cold.”
The next morning, the daughter testified that when she and her little sister woke up to open Christmas gifts, Wallace dragged Preston’s body to the couch.
“I remember trying to touch my mom and she was just rock hard, cold and I said, ‘Mommy,’ and she didn’t respond,” she said.
“He had been threatening to kill her for three years,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said during the trial, according to the Register. “And on Christmas, he made good on those threats.”
“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 statement Wednesday.
“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. Thankfully, Senior District Attorney Heather Brown fought for – and achieved – justice for Zazell Preston.
“We all have an obligation to speak up against violence of any kind, especially domestic violence where the victims are so fiercely controlled by their abusers. 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.”
Wallace is due for sentencing on June 4 and faces up to 15 years to life in prison.