Criminal Case Study: Murder of Za’Zell Preston

Case Information

As a high-profile criminal case under consideration, the brutal murder committed by William Wallace against his wife, Za’Zell Preston, is analyzed. The accused dockworker is 39, and the violence used on his 26-year-old wife has caused a high-profile hearing. On Christmas Eve in 2011, the man and his wife living in Anaheim, California, were visiting their neighbors who subsequently heard a noise and an argument from the couple’s home (Brown, 2021). Being in a state of rage, Wallace inflicted numerous wounds on his wife, and in the morning, he transferred her body to the living room. The couple had three children, and at the time of the murder, the youngest son was only seven weeks old. The two daughters were not Wallace’s, and Preston had them from a past relationship.

The special cynicism of the killer was one of the factors in favor of his prosecution. After he killed his wife, he moved her body to the living room and left it there, informing the children that their mother was unconscious due to alcohol intoxication. Wallace’s earlier conviction was an additional factor against him; he had already served a prison sentence due to the beating of Preston, at that time still his cohabitant in 2008 (Dixit, 2021). However, staying in a correctional facility for a month and a half did not diminish the man’s aggressiveness, and although the woman forgave him, the sentence of 15 years in prison was the finale of their story. According to the accused himself, his wife fell and hit her head due to severe alcohol intoxication, and the killer’s attorney tried to use this argument in court (Dire Trip, 2021). However, physical abuse against the woman was proven, and the defendant’s testimony was not considered adequate.


In accordance with the outcome of the trial, William Wallace was sentenced to prison for second-degree murder. As Grosso (2020) states, this type of murder is described as the act of taking the life of another person, including by harsh methods, but without prior deliberation. The aggressive state of the offender was the catalyst for the murder committed under the influence of emotions. Moreover, the previous serving of a sentence for the abuse of power confirms Wallace’s proclivity for such actions. As a result, even if such a crime were committed by accident, it would still fall under the category of second-degree murder.

The considered case is an important marker reflecting the ambiguity of the position of the criminal justice system in relation to second-degree murders. According to Sehat (2021), these crimes allow perpetrators to stay in prison for many years but do not carry the death penalty. However, such cases as the one described may be grounds for the judiciary to review existing legislation. The man who demonstrates a clear tendency to aggression and deviant behavior towards loved ones is dangerous to society. Despite the absence of a murder plan, his actions can only be regarded as a form of special cruelty and, possibly, mental deviation. Therefore, for the criminal justice system, second-degree murder is a debatable cause that deserves further review.

From the position of influence on the community, the analyzed case shows that even an external idyll in a relationship does not guarantee the safety of one of the spouses. Domestic violence is an acute social problem that deserves timely action and adequate assistance to the vulnerable. The second-degree murder committed by the husband against his wife highlights the problems in the institution of the family in general and the lack of harmony between people who, even after marriage and having children, cannot resolve conflicts peacefully. Thus, the community should learn from this case to prevent this from happening.


Brown, L. (2021). Man who killed wife, propped up body while kids opened presents gets 15 years to life. New York Post.

Dire Trip. (2021). The disgusting and disturbing case of Za’Zell Preston [Video]. YouTube.

Dixit, S. (2021). Who is William Wallace? California man propped dead wife on couch and told kids she was ‘drunk’ on Christmas. MEAWW.

Grosso, S. (2020). Lack of statutory foundation, vagueness, and violation of the rule of lenity of California second degree felony murder. Global Jurist, 20(1), 1-11.

Sehat, S. (2021). Committing murder and punishment in US criminal law. Turkish Journal of Computer and Mathematics Education (TURCOMAT), 12(13), 7895-7906.

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LawBirdie. (2023, April 20). Criminal Case Study: Murder of Za’Zell Preston. Retrieved from


LawBirdie. (2023, April 20). Criminal Case Study: Murder of Za’Zell Preston.

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"Criminal Case Study: Murder of Za’Zell Preston." LawBirdie, 20 Apr. 2023,


LawBirdie. (2023) 'Criminal Case Study: Murder of Za’Zell Preston'. 20 April.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Criminal Case Study: Murder of Za’Zell Preston." April 20, 2023.

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LawBirdie. "Criminal Case Study: Murder of Za’Zell Preston." April 20, 2023.