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At the time of her 2011 death, the kids were 8 and 3 years old, and the couple also shared a 7-week-old baby

By Benjamin VanHoose
March 10, 2021 11:05 AM
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William Wallace
William Wallace
| Credit: Orange County Jail

Prosecutors say a California man allegedly killed his wife and propped her up on Christmas morning for their kids to open gifts in front of her body, the Orange County Register, Mercury News and the Associated Press report.

William Wallace of Anaheim, California, was charged in the 2011 killing of his wife, Za'Zell Preston, 26, which allegedly occurred during a violent argument on Christmas Eve that year.

According to the Orange County Register, during his trial on Monday, prosecutors claimed that, on Christmas morning, Wallace placed Preston's body on the sofa with sunglasses on and proceeded to have their kids open gifts. Prosecutors also alleged that Wallace told their children, "Mommy ... got drunk and ruined Christmas," the Mercury News reports.

At the time, Wallace's two daughters were 8 and 3 years old. The couple also shared a 7-week-old newborn. Preston was studying to become a domestic violence counselor at the time.

As for what happened on Christmas Eve, Wallace's attorney claimed his client was "being accused of something that is not his fault" and that Preston got drunk and fell on a glass table, hitting her head, the Mercury News reports.

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Witnesses painted an alleged picture of repeated violent behavior from Wallace, 39, toward Preston, per the Register. Relatives of Preston also allegedly told investigators Wallace had threatened to kill his wife before, the Mercury News reports.

"This Christmas story does not have a happy ending, and unfortunately this is not just a story, it is real life," Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said in court, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Wallace's defense attorney, Heather Moorhead, told jurors, "You will hear about a relationship that was full of arguing and yelling, but also a lot of love," the AP reports.

Brown and Moorhead did not respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

Wallace has been in jail since he was arrested on Christmas Day 2011, in lieu of $1 million bail, the Register reports.

He faces first-degree murder charges.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.