Originally created 01/08/97

Wallace convicted of nine murders



CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A confessed killer described as an oddity in the twisted realm of serial murders was convicted Tuesday of raping and killing nine women during a 20-month period.

Henry Louis Wallace, a one-time resident of Barnwell, S.C., didn't fit the established profile: He is a black man who knew his victims. Most serial killers are white men who kill strangers, an expert testified during the trial.

His differences from the norm may have kept him off the police radar screen for months. And the women who were his victims helped him go unnoticed: They were poor and black, generally employed at fast-food restaurants, women whose disappearances were likely to go unnoticed by anyone except those closest to them.

Dee Sumpter of Charlotte, whose daughter Shawna Hawk was among the victims, wiped away tears outside the courtroom. "I am numb. My heart is beyond pain."

Prosecutors want the death penalty against Mr. Wallace, 31, who admitted raping and killing the women from 1992 to 1994. Seven were strangled and two were stabbed to death. He was convicted of 27 felonies and two misdemeanors.

Mr. Wallace has not yet been tried for two other killings, one in the Charlotte area and another in Barnwell.

Jurors were scheduled to return to court Monday for the beginning of the sentencing phase. They will hear more evidence before deciding whether Mr. Wallace should be executed or sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors say Mr. Wallace deserves to be executed because he was a calculating, coldblooded killer who preyed on friends and co-workers and hid his crimes by meticulously cleaning murder scenes.

Defense attorneys did not dispute that Mr. Wallace killed the women, but argued he was mentally ill, driven by obsessional sexual fantasies that rendered him incapable of forming the intent to kill.

Former FBI profiler Robert Ressler, who testified for the defense, was among those baffled by the atypical serial killer.

"He's all over the spectrum," Mr. Ressler said. "I never got a good statement from him about why he did this."

Jurors deliberated about 15 hours over several days before returning 29 guilty verdicts, including nine counts of first-degree murder, eight counts of first-degree rape and one count of second-degree rape. The trial began in November.

Mr. Wallace sat quietly and showed little emotion while the verdicts were read, sitting quietly and looking at papers, and then putting his hand on his forehead.

Vanessa Jumper-Sumter, the sister of victim Valencia Jumper, said she watched Mr. Wallace as the verdicts were read.

"I still see no remorse. He didn't seem upset to me, even after they found him guilty," she said.

Ms. Jumper-Sumter said she hoped the jury would recommend death.

"I just wish he could die while he was being tortured like he tortured each of these girls," she said.

Mr. Wallace did not testify, but jurors heard the chilling recordings of his confession to homicide investigators.

George Burrell, a cousin of one of the victims, Brandi Henderson, wept quietly while the verdicts were read, dabbing tears with a handkerchief.

"I'm just glad it's finally over. I'm real exhausted," he said. "This is the part I wanted to see. The sentencing I don't care about. That's up to the jury."

In addition to charges related to the rapes and murders of the women, Mr. Wallace was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill for trying to strangle Ms. Henderson's 10-month-old son, Tyrece Woods, with a pair of gym shorts.

However, the jury rejected that count and convicted Mr. Wallace on a lesser misdemeanor charge of assault with a deadly weapon. The panel reviewed investigative photos of the boy, but the judge refused their request for the boy's medical records, since they were never introduced as evidence.

The second misdemeanor conviction - assault on a child under the age of 12 - also involved the baby.