Dad ‘killed wife on Christmas Eve, then sat her on sofa as kids opened presents’

Za’Zell Preston, 26, died on Christmas Eve in 2011 (Picture: Orange County Register)

A father has been accused of killing his wife on Christmas Eve then propping her up on the sofa while their kids opened presented the following morning.

William Wallace, from Anaheim, California, appeared before jurors in court on Monday charged with murdering his 26-year-old wife, Za’Zell Preston, who had two daughters.

Prosecutors told the court how Wallace allegedly killed Preston after returning from a party at a neighbor’s house on Christmas Eve. He’s then said to have dragged his wife’s body from the bedroom to a living room couch, where he put sunglasses on her and told the children ‘mommy ruined Christmas, she got drunk and ruined Christmas.’

The children then opened their presented sat next to their dead mother, the prosecutor added, reports the Orange County Register.

However Wallace’s defense attorney, Heather Moorhead, denied that he was responsible for his wife’s death, telling jurors that a drunk Preston injured herself when she fell into a glass table, shattering it, after the Christmas Eve party.

Preston had dreams of one-day becoming a domestic-violence counselor, the court heard, before allegedly dying at the hands of Wallace on Christmas Eve 2011. He has already served jail time for beating her during an earlier confrontation and, according to Preston’s relatives, has threatened to kill his wife on several occasions, jurors were told.

Wallace was arrested on Christmas Day in 2011 and has remained jailed ever since pending the outcome of his trial.

At the hearing, which has been several years in the making, senior deputy district attorney, Heather Brown, told jurors that Wallace, now 39, ‘did what he always did, expecting (Preston) to survive like she always did.

‘This Christmas story does not have a happy ending, and unfortunately this is not just a story, it is real life.’

In response, Moorhead said: ‘Mr. Wallace is being accused of something that is not his fault.

‘You will hear about a relationship that was full of arguing and yelling, but also a lot of love.’

Preston apparently told relatives that Wallace was controlling and violent, according to investigators. One relative described finding a pregnant Preston laying in the fetal position in the street after one alleged beating, the prosecution added.

On Christmas Eve in 2011, the couple went to a party at a neighbor’s before returning home to their apartment, which was also home to their newborn son and Preston’s daughters, who were then three and eight years old at the time.

The prosecution told how one neighbor described hearing arguing from the couple’s flat that night, while another told investigators that Wallace could be seen picking up what appeared to be a body outside.

Wallace is said to have told one of Preston’s family members that ‘we were drinking and during the argument I tossed her around a bit’, Brown told the court.

She added that Preston tried to run away but he caught her and took her back to the apartment.

The next morning – Christmas Day – Brown told how Wallace allegedly dragged his wife’s body from the bedroom to a living room couch where he placed her while the children opened Christmas gifts.

When police investigated they found blood throughout the apartment, along with holes punched in walls and a door off of its hinges, the court were told. Preston was still slumped over on the sofa when paramedics arrived.

The prosecution added that Wallace called one of Preston’s relatives after her death to say he was ‘on my way to the penitentiary’.

The defense attorney, meanwhile, said Preston’s older daughter saw her mother trip and fall into a table.

The daughter apparently helped pull glass out of her mother’s body and clean her wounds, Moorhead said.

Wallace is then said to have placed her into the bathtub, the defense attorney added, claiming that Preston’s head struck something else on the way to the bathroom.

Wallace allegedly told multiple people that his wife had suffered a concussion after falling and hitting her head on December 24 2011, and did not wake up, his attorney said.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Wallace faces up to 25 years to life in prison. He has remained behind bars in lieu of a $1 million bail while awaiting trial since his arrest on December 25, 2011.

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