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Dallas Morning News
Monday, September 3, 2001
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Report links murder suspect to witchcraft — (News-Press)
Sept 5, 2001
By MIKE HOYEM, email@example.com
The North Fort Myers woman who police say went on a bloody rampage Sept. — leaving her 6-year-old son dead — practiced witchcraft and went by the name “Palm Frond.”
Leslie Wallace, 39, studied the Wicca religion and — though the belief teaches nonviolence — kept recipes for death spells and ailments for enemies, according to reports made public Tuesday.
The reports also said Wallace, an ex-Marine who once was institutionalized after trying to kill herself, was kept under a suicide watch while recovering at Lee Memorial Hospital from five gunshot wounds.
A guard there wrote that she had this reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: “This is not the way she wanted to be ‘upstaged’ in the news.”
The reports said Wallace pulled a gun on her oldest son, Gregory, 19, in March or April of this year. But husband William Wallace stepped in, calmed his wife down and the family “called a truce.”
The fundamental commandment of Wicca, according to the Church and School of Wicca Web site, is “If it harm none, do what you will.”
According to police, Wallace deviated from that commandment in September, when she killed her son James and tried to shoot her other two sons, including one whose life was saved by a Bible.
“Leslie decided she was fed up with listening to her mother-in-law complain about the kids,” said a report that described the slaying in chilling detail. “Leslie decided the only way out was to kill her kids and eventually commit suicide by cop.
“Leslie went into her bedroom and grabbed a pillow from her bed and went into the Florida room after James. … She tried to kill James by smothering him with the bed pillow. Leslie was unsuccessful in this attempt to kill James because he fought back and she simply could not complete the murder.
“She stopped and removed the pillow from James’ face and James said to her, ‘That wasn’t nice, Mommy.’ Leslie did not respond.”
The report — apparently based on a statement Wallace gave investigators — said Wallace went to her bedroom and retrieved a 16-gauge shotgun. She walked back to where James was watching cartoons.
“Leslie pointed the gun at him and James yelled, ‘No, Mommy, no!’ as Leslie fired the shotgun at him one time,” the report said. “Leslie saw the blast hit James in the right chest. He never said anything more. James just cried and fell over on the couch.”
The shotgun blast put a hole in the boy the size of a baseball.
From there, according to reports, Wallace drove to New Wine Ministries in North Fort Myers, where she tried to gun down her son, Kenneth, 16, sending a panic through the church.
The boy’s life was spared when the shotgun blast hit a Bible he held in front of him.
Police said she next went to a Pizza Hut in North Fort Myers where she tried to kill Gregory. But that attempt failed, too, when Wallace couldn’t get through the locked doors.
The rampage ended in a gun battle with Lee County sheriff’s deputies on the Fort Myers side of the Caloosahatchee Bridge. After firing at deputies, Wallace was shot and critically wounded.
Wallace, who was contemplating a divorce in the days before the shooting, is now in the Lee County Jail facing one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of aggravated assault and four counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.
Death penalty sought
If convicted, prosecutors say they’ll seek the death penalty.
Deputy Assistant Public Defender Robert Harris is on the team that will defend Wallace.
“The only thing I can tell you is there is a history of mental illness,” Harris said. “We’ll be looking into that.”
“We’re aware of Mrs. Wallace’s history,” state attorney’s office spokesman Tony Schall said. “The issue is not of mental illness but of legal insanity. That’s still to be determined.”
The documents released Tuesday — more than 1,000 pages of them — became public as part of the discovery process, in which attorneys in the case exchange information.
They paint a bizarre portrait of a woman who was said to be a loving mother until going over the edge.
According to reports, after killing James and trying to shoot her other sons, Wallace told police she was upset because her mother-in-law was always complaining about her children.
The family had moved into Kathleen Wallace’s home off Maranatha Drive to help with the bills. But the tension was constant.
Family members gave sworn statements to police Sept. 2. In her statement, Kathleen Wallace said Leslie Wallace bragged about being bipolar and “if she did anything they wouldn’t do anything to her.”
She also said Leslie Wallace may have shot James to spite her husband. James was Leslie Wallace’s only child with William Wallace. The other boys were from a previous marriage.
“He was such a wonderful little child,” Kathleen Wallace said. “Nobody could touch him in being smart. …. I figured that’s probably where she started when I found out something because that would hurt me the most and hurt Bill the most ’cause that’s his only natural child.”
James was shot after William Wallace had taken his mother to the hospital to give blood for a test. As they left the house, the pair asked Leslie Wallace if she wanted to go. Leslie Wallace said she had “something to do.”
“My mother was concerned with the idea of the way she says, ‘I’ve got something I have to do,’” William Wallace told investigators.
Kathleen Wallace said she knew nothing of Leslie Wallace’s interest in the occult. But Leslie Wallace apparently devoted a lot of time to it, even keeping a Wicca journal she called “Book of Shadows.”
“I came to this name through thought and looking at my past and present,” Wallace wrote on June 22. “My name is Palm Frond, the leaf of the mighty Palm. The tree of tropical climes can withstand the hurricane yet bend gracefully in a gentle tradewind. A palm frond can be used for fanning or shade, yet can cut you to ribbons.”
On June 18, Wallace wrote that witchcraft, “is the art of methods of control.”
“Society itself is full of bigotry toward witches and witchcraft,” Wallace wrote. “As it doesn’t deal with Christianity, it is feared and loathed. My goal is to better learn of the craft and to apply it to being a solitary Wicca.”
State of mind
One journal entry sounds like a woman struggling to maintain control of her life.
“I feel I will gain the peace I am searching for and have been for 39 years,” Wallace wrote. “I feel I may lose myself.”
Wallace not only had death spells and a “coffin nails” spell designed to bring illness to a foe, but also had a “money doubling spell” to help her win the lottery. Some spells appear to have been sent to her over the Internet by fellow Wiccans, including one with the e-mail name “luckyhoodoo.”
William Wallace knew of his wife’s witchcraft.
“I did not approve,” he told an investigator.
“Is she into white witchcraft or black witchcraft?” the detective asked.
“As far as I know, white witchcraft,” Wallace responded.
“So she’s into good witchcraft?” the detective asked.
“Supposedly, yes,” Wallace said.
Leslie Wallace’s mental condition is described in the reports as bipolar and manic depressive. She had been taking medication for years prior to the shooting.
According to Wallace’s children, she tried to kill herself several years ago in Maryland.
“How’d she try to commit suicide?” an investigator asked Gregory Wallace.
“She had a 12-gauge right up inside of her mouth when my brother walked into the room,” Gregory answered, adding that his mother was put in a mental institution for about a month after Kenneth, the brother who witnessed the attempt, went to school and told office employees what happened.
William Wallace is a hunter and there were guns in the house — six shotguns, three rifles and a handgun.
Gregory Wallace gave a written statement about the incident with the gun in March or April.
“That morning I got into an argument with my father,” he wrote. “It started to get physical and my mom got tired of it so she went back to the bedroom and grabbed one of the shotguns. She then proceeded back to the living room where she then aimed the gun at me.
“My Dad stepped between us and took the gun out of her hands and I stepped out of the room at my Dad’s request. He then sat down and talked to my mom. Then a little bit later called me back out and we called a truce. I am unsure if the gun was loaded.”