Serial Killer Henry Louis Wallace

The Taco Bell Strangler: Profile of a Brutal Rapist and Murderer

Henry Louis Wallace's mugshot

Public Record

Serial killer Henry Louis Wallace killing spree began in 1990 with the murder of Tashonda Bethea in his hometown of Barnwell, South Carolina. He went on to rape and murder nine women in Charlotte, North Carolina between 1992 and 1994. He was arrested on March 13, 1994. After a subsequent trial and conviction, Wallace (a.k.a. "The Taco Bell Strangler") was given death penalty on nine counts and is awaiting the sentence to be carried out.

Early Life

Henry Louis Wallace was born on November 4, 1965, in Barnwell, South Carolina, to Lottie Mae Wallace, a single mother. The home Wallace shared with his older sister (by three years), his mother, and his great-grandmother had no plumbing or electricity. Wallace's mother was a strict disciplinarian who had little patience for her young son. She did not get along with her mother, either, and the two argued constantly.

Despite the fact that Lottie worked long hours at a full-time job in a textile mill, the family had very little money. As Wallace outgrew out his clothing, he was given his sister's hand-me-downs to wear. When Lottie felt the children needed to be disciplined, and she was too tired to do it herself, she'd often make Wallace and his sister get a switch from the yard and whip each other.

High School and College

Despite his volatile home life, Wallace was popular at Barnwell High School. He was on the student council and. His mother would not allow him to play football, so he became a cheerleader instead. Wallace enjoyed high school and the positive feedback he received from other students, but academically his performance was less than stellar.

After graduating in 1983, he attended one semester at South Carolina State College and one semester at a technical college. At the time, Wallace worked part-time as a disc jockey, which he preferred to college. Unfortunately, his radio career was short-lived. He was fired after he was caught stealing CDs.

Navy, Marriage And a Downward Spiral

With nothing holding him in Barnwell, Wallace joined U.S. Naval Reserve. From all reports, he did what he was told to do and he did it well. In 1985, he married high school classmate, Maretta Brabham. In addition to becoming a husband, he also took on the role of stepfather to Brabham's daughter. 

Not long after he was married, Wallace began using drugs—and his drug of choice was crack cocaine. To pay for the narcotics, he began burglarizing homes and businesses. While stationed in Washington, he was served with burglary warrants for crimes in the Seattle metro area. In January 1988, he was arrested for breaking into a hardware store, and later plead guilty to a charge of second-degree burglary. The judge sentenced him to two years of supervised probation but according to his probation officer, Wallace blew off most of the mandatory meetings.

In February 1991, Wallace broke into his old high school and the radio station where he once worked. He stole video and recording equipment and was caught trying to pawn them. In 1992, he was arrested for breaking and entering. Due to his near-perfect service record, Wallace managed to get an Honorable Discharge from the Navy when his criminal activity came to light, but he was sent on his way. Shortly thereafter, his wife him. In November of that year, he relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina where he found work at several fast-food restaurants.

Wallace's Murder Time Line

  • In early 1990, Wallace murdered Tashonda Bethea in his hometown of Barnwell, and then dumped her body in a lake. Her corpse was not discovered until weeks later. Wallace was questioned by the police regarding her disappearance but was never formally charged in her murder. He was also questioned in connection with the attempted rape of a 16-year-old Barnwell girl, but again, was not charged.
  • In May 1992, Wallace picked up Sharon Nance, a convicted drug dealer and known prostitute. When she demanded payment for her services, Wallace beat her to death, then dropped her body by the railroad tracks. She was found a few days later.
  • In June 1992, he raped and strangled Caroline Love at her apartment, then dumped her body in a wooded area. Love was a friend of Wallace's girlfriend. After he killed her, he and her sister filed a missing person's report at the police station. It would be almost two years (March 1994) before her body was discovered.
  • On February 19, 1993, Wallace strangled Shawna Hawk at her home after first having sex with her and later went to her funeral. Hawk worked at Taco Bell, where Wallace was her supervisor. In March 1993, Hawk's mother, Dee Sumpter, and her godmother Judy Williams founded Mothers of Murdered Offspring, a Charlotte-based support group for parents of murdered children.
  • On June 22, he raped and strangled coworker Audrey Spain. Her body was found two days later.
  • On August 10, 1993, Wallace raped and strangled Valencia M. Jumper—a friend of his sister—then set her on fire to cover up his crime. A few days after her murder, he and his sister went to Valencia's funeral.
  • A month later, in September 1993, he went to the apartment of Michelle Stinson, a struggling college student and single mother of two sons. Stinson was a friend of his from Taco Bell. He raped her and then, sometime later, strangled and stabbed her in front of her eldest son.
  • On February 4, 1994, Wallace was arrested for shoplifting, but police had not made a connection between him and the murders. On February 20, 1994, Wallace strangled Vanessa Little Mack, another Taco Bell employee, in her apartment. Mack had two daughters, aged 7 and 4 months at the time of her death.
  • On March 8, 1994, Wallace robbed and strangled Betty Jean Baucom. Baucom and Wallace's girlfriend were co-workers. Afterward, he took valuables from the house and left the apartment, taking her car. He pawned everything except the car, which he left at a shopping center.
  • Wallace went back to the same apartment complex on the night of March 8, 1994, knowing that a man named Berness Woods would be at work and would have access to Woods' girlfriend, Brandi June Henderson. Wallace raped Henderson while she held her baby, and then strangled her. He also strangled her son, but the boy survived. Afterward, Wallace took some valuables from the apartment and left.
  • The police beefed up patrols in east Charlotte after two bodies of young black women were found at The Lake apartment complex. Even so, Wallace sneaked through to rob and strangle Deborah Ann Slaughter, who had been a co-worker of his girlfriend, and stabbed her 38 times in the stomach and chest. Her body was found on March 12, 1994.

Arrest, Trial, and Aftermath

Wallace was arrested on March 13, 1994. For 12 hours, he confessed to the murders of 10 women in Charlotte. He described in detail the women's appearances; how he'd raped, robbed, and killed them; and spoke about his crack addiction.

Over the next two years, Wallace's trial was delayed due to the choice of venue, DNA evidence from murdered victims, and jury selection. Proceedings began in September 1996. On January 7, 1997, Wallace was found guilty of nine murders. On January 29, he was sentenced to nine death sentences. On June 5, 1998, Wallace married a former prison nurse, Rebecca Torrijas, in a ceremony that was held next to the execution chamber where he has been sentenced to die.

Since his conviction, Wallace has made several appeals in an attempt to overturn his death sentences. He stated that his confessions had been coerced and his Constitutional rights had been violated. In 2000, North Carolina’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentences. His appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in 2001, and in 2005, Superior Court Judge Charles Lamm rejected a further appeal to overturn Wallace’s convictions and nine death sentences.