William Wallace, 39, was originally indicted with one felony count of murder in 2012 by a grand jury. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 4, where he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Wallace had previously been jailed for beating his wife, 26-year-old Zazell Preston.
The couple had gone to a neighbor’s Christmas Eve party the night before the slaying, and after returning home, began to argue.
Wallace then used blunt force trauma to the head of Preston, knocking her unconscious, the OCDA said. Preston’s two children, aged 3 and 8, were in the apartment at the time. The couple’s seven-week-old son was also present.
On Christmas day, Wallace dragged his wife’s body from the bedroom to the living room couch, put sunglasses on her, and told the kids that she got drunk and ruined Christmas, the OCDA said.
The children then opened presents in front of her.
At 9:30 a.m., Wallace called 9-1-1 to report that Preston needed medical attention, the OCDA said. Anaheim police discovered the victim on the couch was unresponsive, and transported her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“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 press 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. “
He continued, “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.”
In a fate of irony, Preston was enrolled in classes at Cypress College where she was hoping to become a domestic violence counselor.