News Press

Lee deputy wounds woman after rampage in North Fort Myers

By ANDI ATWATER, aatwater@news-press.com
Originally published 9/3/2001
News Press

NORTH FORT MYERS — A mother wielding a shotgun killed one son at home and wounded another at church Sunday before being captured in a shootout with deputies on the south end of the Caloosahatchee Bridge.

Leslie Ann Wallace, 39, of 1461 Maranatha Drive, North Fort Myers, tried to kill all three of her sons during her rampage, authorities said.

Wallace, who was shot during the capture, was in serious condition Sunday night following surgery.

Investigators say they don’t know why Wallace went on the rampage but hinted depression could be a factor.

Wallace killed her 6-year-old son, James, Sunday morning while he watched TV in the family room, Lee County sheriff’s investigators said.

Wallace then drove to New Wine Ministries church at 903 Pondella Road. She arrived at 10:29 a.m. and coaxed her 16-year-old son, Kenny, from the church and shot him with a 16-gauge shotgun, Sheriff Rod Shoap said.

“It couldn’t have been my Mom,” Kenny Wallace told WINK-TV. “Her eyes. The brief second that I got a look, it wasn’t hers.”

A covered Bible that Kenny Wallace clutched in his arms when his mother pulled the trigger apparently saved his life, authorities said.

Wallace then drove to the Pizza Hut at 13190 U.S. 41, just south of Hancock Bridge Parkway, where her eldest son, Greg, 19, was working.

Wallace called 911 at 10:41 a.m. from an outside pay phone and told police she had killed her 6-year-old son.

She tried to lure her son Greg from the restaurant, but authorities already had warned him to stay put.

“He told communications that he would go out and calm her down, but we had people on the phone telling him not to go outside,” Cpl. Mike Scott said.

Leslie Wallace, who also worked at the Pizza Hut as a delivery person, at one point aimed her shotgun at the restaurant’s manager but didn’t shoot, investigators said.

Deputies by then had located Leslie Wallace, and when she pulled out of the Pizza Hut in her Geo Metro and headed south over the Caloosahatchee Bridge, four deputies in marked cars were trailing her.

At the foot of the bridge, near downtown Fort Myers, another deputy blocked the road, forcing Wallace to stop.

When Wallace got out of her car, she aimed the shotgun toward the line of deputies behind her.

Jerry Kuhn of Fort Myers was driving his Oldsmobile Aurora behind Wallace when he saw the train of squad cars and pulled over.

“My wife started screaming,” Kuhn said. “I pushed her head down as (Wallace) took a shot that went right over my car.”

Kuhn said deputies converged on Wallace and shot her.

“They were extremely efficient,” he said. “When she went down, she fired another shot that went in the air and then officers kicked the gun away from her and handcuffed her.”

The rear windows in Wallace’s turquoise Geo were shattered.

Deputy Chuck Taggart, 34, an 11-year sheriff’s office veteran, fired the shots that wounded Wallace.

Her injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

The shootings took hours to piece together.

Wallace had a prescription for antidepressants, investigators said.

Wallace, her husband, Bill, 44, and their three sons lived with Bill’s mother, Kathleen Wallace, 77.

The family had moved into the Maranatha Drive house in March after Bill’s father died earlier this year, authorities and neighbors said.

The white house with red trim was in disarray Sunday, a curtain spilling outside an open window frame.

Yellow police tape surrounded the two-bedroom house while Bill and Kathleen Wallace sat in the shade in a neighbor’s yard.

Investigators kept the Wallaces out of their home as they waited for a search warrant.

The body of 6-year-old James wasn’t removed until 7:32 p.m.

Investigators seemed to concentrate mostly in the family room of the Wallace house. At 8:45 p.m., they started taking out evidence in plastic and paper bags. One plastic bag contained what appeared to be several pill bottles.

Ten minutes later, investigators carried out about four rifles and put them in the back of one of the patrol cars.

Two women arrived on the scene at 7:45 p.m. and said they were friends of the family. They wouldn’t comment to the media. One of the investigators went inside the house and returned with several hangers full of clothes, including a sweater and a pastel plaid dress. He gave them to the women.

Through the open front door of the house, about six bottles of Diet Coke could be seen on the dining room table. A mylar balloon spun slowly. The message on the balloon read, “Get Well Soon.”

Investigators said Bill and Leslie Wallace had argued over finances Sunday morning before Bill took his mother to the doctor.

Kenny Wallace left for church and Greg Wallace went to work at Pizza Hut.

James was alone with his mother when she took one of several guns that were in the house and shot him, authorities said.

“My little brother was like my best friend,” Kenny Wallace told WINK-TV. “He never did anything to really make anybody mad. He was just a kid.”

Capt. Richard Chard said Leslie Wallace was an 18-year veteran of the Marine Corps and knew how to use a weapon.

“She knew her firearms and she was a good shot,” he said. “She was raised around guns.”

She used a bolt-action shotgun to kill James and fire at Kenny Wallace, Shoap said.

Kenny Wallace suffered minor cuts when some shot grazed one of his arms, investigators said.

Neighbors said Bill and Leslie Wallace mostly kept to themselves, although their older sons often played basketball with neighborhood teen-agers.

Marsha Boswell, 44, who lives across the street from the Wallaces, said she often helped out the elder Wallaces before the family moved in.

Boswell said Leslie Wallace was moody, and she knew when to stay out of Wallace’s way.

“You could tell when it was better just to back off and not talk to her,” Boswell said. “I just never thought it would come to this.”

— Staff writers Charles Runnells and Mark Krzos contributed to this report.