The Murder of Za’Zell Preston

In the early morning of December 24, 2011, William Wallace killed his wife, Za’Zell Preston, 26. On Christmas morning, he placed her on the couch, in a sitting position, and opened presents with their children. Wallace received 15 years in prison.


William Wallace and Za’Zell Preston, 26, were married and had a child together, who was several weeks old. She had two daughters who were ages 3 and 8, from a previous relationship. Za’Zell was enrolled in college, taking classes to become a domestic violence counselor.

Throughout their marriage, there had been multiple domestic violence incidents and, according to family members, Wallace threated to kill Za’Zell many times. According to the Santa Maria Times, Wallace had beaten Za’Zell multiple times and had been arrested for domestic violence before. During the trial, Za’Zell’s grandmother

Christmas Eve

According to the Santa Maria Times, the couple attended a party on Christmas Eve. When they returned home, neighbors reported hearing them argue. The argument escalated and became physical, and Wallace hit Za’Zell in the head repeatedly. During the trial, one daughter (17 years old at the time) testified Wallace had pushed Za’Zell, causing her to fall through a glass table. He then asked his daughter to pull glass pieces out of her mother’s body. After, Wallace brought Za’Zell to the bathroom. The daughter would testify when he dropped her in the bathroom, Za’Zell’s head hit the toilet. Wallace then brought her body to the bedroom, lying her down as if she were asleep. Wallace would sleep with her remains.

In the morning, Wallace brought the body to the living room, and positioned Za’Zell so it appeared she was sitting, slumped, on the couch. He put sunglasses on her and told his children that she had drank too much. One child would recall her mother being cold and hard when she touched her. The Santa Maria Times quotes Wallace saying, “Mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas” before Wallace recorded his children opening gifts.  m

Za’Zells’s mother called and asked Wallace to speak to her. According to NBC, Wallace told her that Za’Zell had not woken up yet. He also told her that Za’Zell had been slobbering and peed herself. Around 9:30a.m., Wallace called 911 and told them his wife needed medical attention.

When paramedics arrived at the home, they found Za’Zell deceased on the couch.

Arrest & Trial

Wallace’s trial took place in 2021 in an Orange County Superior courthouse. During the trial, Wallace’s lawyers argued Za’Zell died from injuries she sustained from falling due to being intoxicated. The jury ultimately found Wallace guilty of second-degree murder on April 7, 2021. A judge sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison.

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