News Press

Those who know family at a loss for answers

By MARK KRZOS, mkrzos@news-press.com
Originally published 9/3/01
News Press

NORTH FORT MYERS — Friends, neighbors and a teacher said they are trying to understand how Leslie Ann Wallace could shoot and kill her youngest son and then try to kill another son.

Wallace, of 1461 Maranatha Drive, North Fort Myers, shot and killed her 6-year-old son, James, then drove to New Wine Ministries on Pondella Road and shot and wounded her 16-year-old son, Kenny, authorities said.

Wallace then tried unsuccessfully to lure her eldest son, Greg, out of work. Her rampage ended in Fort Myers when she was wounded in a shootout with deputies.

Brandy Vandegrift, 19, worked with Greg and his mother at the North Fort Myers Pizza Hut. “They’re both friends of mine,” she said.

Greg didn’t know what happened until deputies informed him that his mother killed his youngest brother and shot his other brother Kenny, Vandegrift said. “The manager said he was in a lot of shock.”

Leslie Wallace was a hard worker, very open-minded and dreamed about living in a five-story home inside a gated community, Vandegrift said. “I just saw her yesterday (Saturday) and she seemed real happy — she just had her hair done.”

Vandegrift said she and Leslie Wallace would frequently talk about her sons and how much she cared for them. “She also told me that she and her husband would have disagreements about his mother,” Vandegrift said. “She said that she was causing them problems.”

Bill, Leslie and the three boys moved into Kathleen Wallace’s Maranatha Drive house in March after Bill’s father died earlier this year.

The Wallaces lived in Lexington Park, Md., for three years before moving to North Fort Myers. Several neighbors who lived near the Wallaces in Maryland did not remember them.

Yancey Palmer, 28, a North Fort Myers High School math teacher and neighbor, said he knows Kenny Wallace well.

“Since he lives on the same street and goes to the same school where I teach, I see him quite often,” said Palmer, who teaches pre-calculus and advanced-placement calculus. “He’s a quiet kid and very intelligent. He’s in the very advanced classes at North.”

When school was out, Kenny Wallace could often be seen playing basketball and football with other kids on the street, Palmer said. “He didn’t discuss his family too much. It’s a shock to everyone.”

Palmer didn’t associate with Kenny Wallace’s parents. “I talked to the dad after they moved in. They were doing some landscaping and I helped him move a tree,” Palmer said. “The mom, I never talked to her. She was sort of strange — kind of reclusive.”

Shirley Albert didn’t know the Wallaces personally but said Sunday’s events turned the neighborhood upside down.

“It’s usually quiet — nothing like today,” she said. “There was a lot of commotion. Everyone’s in a state of shock.”

Patty Bolton lives across the street and a few houses down from the Wallaces.

She was reading the paper on her lanai when she saw a firetruck arrive and knew something was up. At first, Bolton thought it involved Kathleen Wallace because she has a history of health problems.

“It’s a shame,” Bolton said. “It’s a nice, quiet neighborhood. You’d never image something like this would happen here.”