News Press

Mother’s 911 call ‘heartless’

Alleged shooter complained about mother-in-law

By SHARON TURCO, sturco@news-press.com
Originally published 9/4/01
News Press

Leslie Wallace told 911 operators she shot her 6-year-old son to death and attempted to kill another because of her mother-in-law’s constant complaints about the boys.

“We’ve been living with her since February and that’s all I’ve heard her bitch about was the kids, the kids, the kids, the kids,’’ she told the dispatcher Sunday during her 45-minute shooting spree. “My kids couldn’t play basketball. My 6-year-old couldn’t even play with his toys because it bothered her.”

To end their misery, Wallace told authorities she killed James and intended to kill her 16- and 19-year-old sons, before dying herself.

The 39-year-old mother made the chilling 911 call from outside the North Cleveland Avenue Pizza Hut where son Greg, 19, was working.

“I just shot a 6-year-old boy at 1461 Maranatha Drive, North Fort Myers,” she told the dispatcher when asked what her emergency was. “He’s probably dead by now.”

Wallace gave the dispatcher detailed instructions on how to get into the house, saying, “You’ll find the body of a 6-year-old that’s probably had half its chest blown off by a 16-gauge.”

Later during the almost two-minute call, when the dispatcher asked Wallace why she killed her son, she said, “Because my husband moved me and my three boys in with my mother-in-law and she’s been nothing but hell. All she’s done is bitch about the boys since the day we moved in.

“I just regret that I missed my 16-year-old.”

Deputies captured Wallace in a shootout on the Caloosahat-chee Bridge after she fled from outside the restaurant, Lee County Sheriff’s Captain Richard Chard said.

Wallace, her husband Bill, and their three sons had lived with Bill Wallace’s mother, Kathleen Wallace, on Maranatha since February.

Wallace has been under a doctor’s care, Chard said, and was taking the medication Wellbutrin, which is prescribed for bipolar disorder, and Tegretol, which is prescribed for seizures.

She did not take the medication Sunday because she planned to die, Chard said.

Chard said the 911 call is hard to believe because of Wallace’s blase attitude.

“Very cold, heartless, very nonconcerning, very matter-of-fact,” Chard said. “There is no doubt in my mind, she knew what she was doing the entire time.”

Wallace remained in serious condition at Lee Memorial Hospital on Monday.

“Once she is dismissed, she will be charged accordingly,” Chard said.

Investigators are considering charges of first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, several counts of aggravated assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

James died from a massive shotgun blast to the chest, according to an autopsy performed Monday by the medical examiner’s office.

Bill Wallace and his son, Kenny, spent Monday together, said Steve Rogers, pastor of New Wine Ministries where Kenny Wallace was worshipping Sunday.

Wallace began her killing spree at home Sunday at about 10:15 a.m. after her husband took his mother to the hospital for blood work, Chard said.

The couple had fought over finances that morning, Chard said.

“James asked to go with his dad,” Rogers said. “But Bill said no.”

Wallace is accused of shooting her son with a 16-gauge shotgun blast to the chest as he watched television, Chard said.

“Bill feels like it’s his fault, if only he had taken James with him,” Rogers said.

Wallace then drove her Geo Metro less than 5 miles to the Pondella Road church, where Kenny played bass in the youth band.

Wallace walked into the church lobby about 10:20 a.m. and asked to speak to her son, Rogers said.

Kenny was in a back room and a woman went to get him, Rogers said.

Wallace walked outside, arming herself with the shotgun. She fired at Kenny as he walked out the door at about 10:30 a.m. A leather-covered Bible that Kenny carried stopped nearly all of the shotgun’s blast, authorities said.

“God intervened and saved Kenny’s life,” Rogers said.

Kenny ran back inside the church just as the service started.

A woman screamed, “There’s a woman with a rifle in the parking lot.”

A barrage of 911 calls from people at the church flooded the sheriff’s office.

“We need a police officer right now, please,” one frantic woman told the dispatcher, alternately telling her what happened and giving a description of the shooter. “There was a shooting outside our church. ... There’s a woman with a shotgun at the front of the church shooting. ... She shot at one of the kids out in the parking lot, but he didn’t get hurt.”

Rogers ran into the parking lot, but Wallace had left already. She drove to the Pizza Hut at 13190 U.S. 41 just south of Hancock Bridge Parkway, where her eldest son, Greg, was working.

Wallace also worked at the restaurant as a delivery driver.

She called 911 at 10:41 a.m. from a pay phone outside the restaurant.

She explained, “We were sitting in the Florida room and I shot him with a 16-gauge just to the right of the heart.”

There was nobody with her son, Wallace told the dispatcher, saying, “I left because I went to go and try to shoot my 16-year-old, but he got away.”

In the meantime, other dispatchers called the restaurant warning them not to let Wallace inside or allow anyone to leave.

Wallace then abruptly hung up saying she saw a deputy.

At one point Wallace is accused of pointing the gun at the restaurant’s manager but didn’t shoot. She never attempted to go inside.

Rescue workers were already on their way to help James.

As Wallace pulled out of the parking lot driving south over the Caloosahatchee Bridge, four deputies in marked cars trailed her.

At the foot of the bridge, near downtown Fort Myers, another deputy blocked the road, forcing Wallace to stop at 10:47 a.m.

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

Deputy Chuck Taggart fired back, shooting six rounds, five of which hit Wallace on her left side, knocking her to the ground.

She fired another shot, a witness said, but then deputies kicked the gun away from her, and handcuffed her.

As deputies chased Wallace out of the restaurant, Greg left heading to the church to see Kenny, Rogers said.

He arrived at the end of the service, where worshippers prayed for him, Rogers said.

After the service, Rogers went to the family’s home, where he found Bill and his mother outside.

“Where are my kids?” Rogers recalls Bill Wallace asking. Rogers answered saying that a Bible had saved Kenny’s life.

“God saved his life, but why didn’t he save James?” Rogers said the distraught father cried out.

A tragedy unfolds

COMPLETE 911 TRANSCRIPT

911: 911, what is your emergency?

Wallace: I just shot a 6-year-old boy at 1461 Maranatha Drive North Fort Myers. He’s probably dead by now.

911 dispatcher: 1460 what ma’am?

Wallace: Maranatha. (She spells it out) M-A-R-A-N-A-T-H-A.

911 dispatcher: Stay on the line and I’ll connect you ma’am.

Ambulance and fire dispatcher: Ambulance and fire, can I help you?

Wallace: You better get a rescue unit over to 1461 Maranatha. That’s M-A-R-A-N-H-A (sic) Drive. It’s off Oakley.

Ambulance and fire dispatcher: What’s going on there ma’am?

Wallace: You’ll find the body of a 6-year-old that’s probably had half its chest blown off by a 16-gauge.

Ambulance and fire dispatcher: OK. How old was the child? 6-year-old. A little boy, a little girl?

Wallace: Boy. If they come in. If the rescue unit goes through the carport, into the one door it’s unlocked. They go through the kitchen and into the Florida room.

Ambulance and fire dispatcher: OK, how did this happen? Do you know?

Wallace: I shot him.

Ambulance and fire dispatcher: OK, you shot him?

Wallace: I am his mother and I shot him.

Ambulance and fire dispatcher: OK. Law enforcement, do you have any special requests?

Sheriff’s dispatcher: Ma’am, where are you at?

Wallace: I’m at Pizza Hut on North Cleveland.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: Pizza Hut.

Wallace: Yes.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: Where did you shoot him at ma’am?

Wallace: We were sitting in the Florida room and I shot him with a 16-gauge just to the right of the heart.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: OK. What street is this off of ma’am?

Wallace: The house?

Sheriff’s dispatcher: Yes.

Wallace: Oakley.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: Is there anybody there with him?

Wallace: Nope.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: Ma’am, your child is at Maranatha Drive?

Wallace: Yes he is.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: Ma’am, why did this happen?

Wallace: Because my husband moved me and my three boys in with my mother-in-law and she’s been nothing but hell. All she’s done is bitch about the boys since the day we moved in. I just regret that I missed my 16-year-old.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: And is there anybody there with the son right now?

Wallace: No, there’s not. I left because I went to go and try to shoot my 16-year-old, but he got away.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: And where’s your mother at?

Wallace: My mother-in-law is at Lee Memorial Hospital getting blood drawn. With the boy’s father.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: And you did this because your mother-in-law complained about the kids?

Wallace: Yes, we’ve been living with her since February and that’s all I’ve heard her bitch about was the kids, the kids, the kids, the kids. My kids couldn’t play basketball. My 6-year-old couldn’t even play with his toys because it bothered her.

I got to go now, I see a deputy.

Sheriff’s dispatcher: Ma’am.

(Silence)