Many serial killers target strangers, victims to whom they have no link or relation whatsoever. Henry Louis Wallace was not that type of serial killer. Wallace preyed on the people he encountered in his everyday life: his co-workers and acquaintances in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Wallace grew up in Barnwell, South Carolina, and by all accounts he was a likable kid. In high school he was on the student council and the cheerleading squad, and he joined the Navy in 1985. Toward the end of his eight years in the Navy, Wallace was caught breaking and entering near a base, which eventually led to his dismissal from the service in 1992 (although he was able to finagle an honorable discharge). In the meantime, his mother and sister had relocated to Charlotte, so Wallace joined them there. Wallace bounced from job to job and ended up working as a manager at a Taco Bell in East Charlotte. He developed a taste for crack cocaine, and his crimes went from petty to violent.

Photo Credit: Murderpedia

Wallace’s murders in Charlotte began in May 1992. His first victim was Sharon Nance, a prostitute he killed and dumped by a set of railroad tracks. Soon after, Wallace started to target people he knew. On June 19, he murdered his own girlfriend’s roommate. Wallace used a key to enter the apartment his girlfriend Sadie McKnight shared with a woman named Caroline Love. When she rebuffed his sexual advances, he choked her into submission, then raped her. He then strangled her with the cord from a curling iron and dumped her body in a ditch. Later, when McKnight grew concerned that her roommate had disappeared and went to the police station to file a missing person report, Wallace accompanied her to the station. The investigation turned up nothing.

Over half a year passed before Wallace struck again. In February 1993, he visited 18-year-old Shawna Hawk at her apartment. Hawk was one of Wallace’s employees at Taco Bell. The two had sex, which, according to Wallace’s confession, Hawk cried through, then Wallace strangled and killed her and left her body in the full bathtub. Hawk was discovered by her mother and boyfriend, and, though her death was ruled a homicide, the investigation again turned up nothing. The brazen Wallace even attended Shawna Hawk’s funeral. Four months later he attacked another one of his Taco Bell employees, 24-year-old Audrey Spain, because Wallace believed Spain knew the combination to the safe at the fast food restaurant. Wallace’s crack cocaine use was escalating, and he was desperate for money. When Spain told him she did not know the combination, Wallace raped her, then choked her to death.

Wallace’s crack cocaine addiction was spiraling out of control, and he responded by taking advantage of people around him. Over the next 8 months, Wallace murdered 6 more women in Charlotte. The killer was familiar with all of them. They were friends of friends, girlfriends of co-workers, and people he knew from Taco Bell. In March 1994, Wallace’s crimes reached a frenzied point: He murdered 3 women in the first 11 days of the month, including two on the same day.

On March 11, the day Wallace claimed his final victim, police recovered a stolen car belonging to Betty Jean Baucom, who had been murdered on March 8. A handprint belonging to Wallace was lifted from the trunk of Baucom’s car. Police in Charlotte searched high and low for Wallace, and he was arrested on March 12. Wallace confessed in detail to 11 murders (including one he had committed while still in the Navy), was found guilty of nine, and was given nine death sentences in 1997.

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Photo Credit: Charlotte Five

Many in Charlotte’s African-American community were justifiably outraged that Wallace had been allowed to murder so many victims. Remarkably, police didn’t issue a warning that a serial killer was on the loose in East Charlotte until March 9, only three days before Wallace’s arrest. The mother of one of the victims said the crimes weren’t given top priority by police because the women “weren’t prominent people with socio-economic status. They weren’t special. And they were black.” The father of one of the victims added, “they didn’t live in a high-rent district. They weren’t famous or known. They worked in fast-food joints. And they didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes.”

Photo Credit: Charlotte Five

Today, 51-year-old Henry Louis Wallace sits on death row in North Carolina, awaiting his inevitable execution for the horrific crimes he committed in cold blood.

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