Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Henry Louis Wallace

On Death Row

According to the Fayetteville Observer, the families who were in court the day that Henry Louis Wallace expressed his sorrow for what he had done "didn't buy it." The newspaper quoted Kathy Love, sister of Wallace victim Caroline Love, who told a reporter, "I don't believe he's sorry. He wouldn't have lied to me for two years while my sister was missing and then killed all those other women." Her sentiments reflected those of the other relatives present. Brandi Henderson's cousin, George Burrell, when asked what he thought, merely shook his head and simply wanted to know what made Wallace do what he'd done.

Defender Isabel Day's explanation to that was, "(Wallace) is very sick, very mentally ill." She wept when the trial ended, not for her court loss, but because the high emotion she needed to suspend over the months of trial could finally be released.

*****

After his trial, Henry Louis Wallace was transferred to North Carolina's only death row unit, that in Central Prison, Raleigh.

His verdict was automatically appealed. The appeal was complex, but basically it resurrected some earlier issues including Henry Louis Wallace's "involuntary" confession and the delay of the issuance of his Miranda rights and contested some new ones the possible illegality of the court's refusal to accept the defense's motion for change of venue to a less prejudicial locale and even the definitions of "premeditation" and "deliberation" as they applied to Wallace's crimes. On May 5, 2000, the Supreme Court of North Carolina filed its response: "We conclude defendant received a fair trial and capital sentencing proceeding, free from judicial error, and the sentences of death recommended by the jury and entered by the trial court are not disproportionate. NO ERROR."

*****

For a man whose appeal cited coerced confessions, Wallace kept talking, talking, and talking, as if to dump guilt from every dark corner of his bones. Even before his trial, Wallace had confessed to other murders for which he was not charged. Besides the prostitute he had admitted killing in Charlotte, he also claimed to have killed, while in the Navy, a woman named Tashanda Bethea in South Carolina in 1990.

"And there were more," Criminal Justice Professor Charisse Coston informs us. "After his incarceration, he told authorities of others. If all true, the estimated number nears twenty, all murdered across the world while he was on naval duty in various ports of call."

Henry Wallace in prison
Henry Wallace in prison

In the meantime, the prisoner sits in Central Prison, a three-hour drive from Charlotte. According to Coston, "Officials need to keep him separated from other unit prisoners who drew him into fights the minute he arrived there." But, says she, some of those who at first picked on him might think differently now. "He was 180 pounds when arrested; he now weighs in at around four hundred."

All prison time hasn't been downcast for Wallace, however.

He married prison nurse Rebecca Torrijas on June 5, 1998, the vows being exchanged in a small room next to the death chamber. Although they were never allowed to consummate their marriage, the couple remains in communication; Torrijas is a constant visitor.

But, the memory of his wedding day almost assuredly lightens the daily load. If by chance he glances down the corridor where the death chamber sits, he probably remembers his wedding ceremony at that end of the hall, rather than the less-merry one he must some day experience.

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