Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Henry Louis Wallace


Between 1992 and 1994, nine young black women in Charlotte, North Carolina, were raped and strangled to death, the murders increasing in ferocity and rapidity. For almost two years the killer remained at large, causing what led to an angry hysteria in the city especially within the predominantly minority community where the murders were occurring. Observed was a lack of adequate police patrolling in that area of town. However, the real reason that the murderer continued to run rampant was because the police were, simply, stumped.

Understaffed and overworked there were only seven full-time investigators on roll call at the time (there are now 25) the force was not ready to face a serial killer who crept up out of nowhere. Though eager, determined, tough and professional, the police were not used to a psychopath whose motive could not be labeled and whose modus operandi was too sloppy to categorize. Each of the murders was treated separately, with a different investigator assigned to each one. Notes were not compared and the cases went, for a long time, unlinked. The city cops finally sought help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"But, even at that, the contact provided little information at first," proclaims Charisse Coston, Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina. "The killer at large in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area did not fit the usual profile of a serial murderer. For one, he slew close friends and acquaintances, even co-workers, an exceedingly rare trait of this brand of killers."

However, Henry Louis Wallace, the eventual suspect, did share one common thread with all serial killers: He was able to hide his inner vehemence from the world. Says Coston, "The very people he killed trusted him. They had no forewarning of their death, even seconds before he struck at them."

A 1994 Time magazine article on serial killings, called "Dances With Werewolves," attests to this. Author Anastasia Toufexis says of Wallace, "Women, taken with his sweet smile, solicitous attitude and pleasant looks, trusted him...They invited him to their homes for dinner, watched while he cradled their babies in his arms, accepted his invitations to date."

In her classes at the university, Professor Coston hosts a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on Wallace's 1992-94 homicides, highlighting the details of the investigation and the ultimate identification of Wallace. Conducting the presentation is Sergeant Gary McFadden, one of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's top investigators. Their help in sharing information with The Crime Library has been invaluable, providing this author with the ability to trace the case history of one of America's most dangerous, yet least recorded, serial killers.

Following is the frightening story of a violent chain reaction born from Henry Wallace's abstract, dysfunctional upbringing, exacerbated by a sexual drive and an abuse of drugs. A man whom the Charlotte Observer described as, "a calculated, cold-blooded killer who...hid his crimes by meticulously cleaning up murder scenes." A man whose impulsive crimes baffled a city, its police force, and had a population of more than 400,000 checking over its shoulders on dark streets and byways for almost two years.

Serving as the spine-work for this article are two sources of data, both provided by Coston and McFadden; these are 1) the transcript of Henry Wallace's murder confession and 2) a copy of the authorized social profile of the defendant that was compiled just prior to his court trial. Together, this data proved vital in shaping Wallace in and out of control.

As well, I referred to several court and trial records, particularly the court dockets and "Appellate Report," the latter that details his case from its roots to its dramatic finale. Spotlighted are not only the history of the murders and energized investigations, but also the main players of the hunt, the arrest and indictment, the trial and the legal ramifications of the trial.

City records and local newspapers, too, provided insight into the contemporary landscape: the City of Charlotte, the County of Mecklenburg and the peoples' reactions to the scary things that were unfolding within their boundaries, sometimes as close as next door.



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