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Wallace’s Mother and Sister Struggle With News of His Criminal Life

March 16, 1994 GMT

BARNWELL, S.C. (AP) _ Lottie Mae Wallace feels like she’s dreaming, even though she has slept only a few hours since her son was accused of being a serial killer.

The phone rings constantly with calls from reporters and friends, asking how Henry Louis Wallace came to be charged with killing 10 women in Charlotte, N.C., during the past two years.

″It’s like you’re in a dream and you’re eventually going to wake up - that’s how it seems to me,″ she said in an interview at her home Tuesday.

″You don’t know what your children are doing, so what can you say?″

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She said her son has offered little explanation in the two phone conversations they have had since he was charged Sunday.

″He said it was something that happened in his head and he couldn’t explain it,″ Ms. Wallace said. ″He said he hoped nobody thought I did a bad job raising him.″

Authorities say Wallace confessed to sexually assaulting and strangling an 11th person, 17-year-old Tashanda Bethea, in March 1990. Ms. Bethea had lived with her aunt and uncle in the same Barnwell neighborhood as the Wallace family.

Authorities said Wednesday they had a warrant charging Wallace with her murder. Barnwell County Sheriff Joey Zorn said Wallace told him he wanted to confess to the killing because he knew Bethea’s family.

Ms. Bethea’s aunt, Margerite Henry, came to see Ms. Wallace on Tuesday. ″She said she couldn’t blame me for what happened,″ Ms. Wallace said.

Wallace’s sister, Yvonne, said Mrs. Henry said she remembered Henry Wallace as a little boy ″and she can’t understand what happened either.″

The sister of another slain woman called Yvonne Wallace in search of an answer. She had none.

″We feel sorry for them that these things happened. Those lives didn’t have to be taken,″ Yvonne Wallace said.

Charlotte police apologized for not spotting a link between the murders sooner. Police Chief Jack Boger rejected accusations by some that the investigation was slow because of the victims were all working-class blacks.

″If somebody could show me evidence of a pattern of discrimination, I’d certainly do something to fix that,″ Boger said. ″I don’t believe it would have been any different if the victims had been 10 middle-class white women.″

Police say they were thrown off Wallace’s trail by variations in the cases. Wallace gave few clues to his friends and family that something was wrong.

Despite Wallace’s frequent calls and visits, his family said they learned just last month that he had a problem with crack cocaine. They learned of his arrest Sunday through news reports.

″He would rather have died than for me to find out. Every time he’s done something I was the last to find out about it,″ Wallace’s mother said.

Ms. Wallace said her son told her he felt relieved after he was taken into custody.

The sheriff said that during their interview Monday, Wallace calmly ate a Snickers candy bar and drank a Coke as he gave detailed information about how he destroyed the evidence of Ms. Bethea’s death.

″It was just like something you do every day - no big deal. He seemed like a super nice guy, but he’s got a bad ticker somewhere,″ Zorn said.

Yvonne Wallace said she planned to visit her brother on Friday. Their father has been gone for years, and their mother said she has since heard that he had died.

Lottie Mae Wallace says she won’t be going to the jail anytime soon. She said she will just continue working at the factory where she sews sock toes.

″He hurt me and I just don’t want to see him right now,″ she said. ″I’d be afraid I’d say something I shouldn’t say.″