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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Documentary recounts murder spree that brought Charlotte to standstill
Film focuses on Henry Wallace case
 
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2018 11:11 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY
Retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Detective Garry McFadden was the lead investigator on the Henry Louis Wallace serial murder case. Wallace was convicted on nine counts of first-degree murder and is on death row at Central Prison.

For two years in the early 1990s, Charlotte’s African American community was under siege from a serial killer.


Investigation Discovery is returning to the scene of the crimes with a documentary, “Bad Henry” July 24 at 9 p.m. The film chronicles Henry Louis Wallace’s 1992-94 murder spree which left 10 black women murdered and laid bare tensions between African Americans and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, who struggled to solve the case during a period of record murder rates fueled in part by the crack epidemic.


“We knew we had a problem,” said Mecklenburg Sheriff-elect Garry McFadden, who was CMPD’s lead detective on the Wallace case. “We didn’t know how big a problem it was.”
Investigation Discovery, which specializes in true-crime documentaries, rehashes the Wallace rampage, which was unusual in that the perpetrator was black. CMPD, which had only nine homicide detectives at the time, was slow to piece together the common thread among the murders – all the victims knew and trusted Wallace, either from work at fast-food restaurants or his girlfriend. Wallace was convicted on nine counts of first-degree murder and is on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh.


“I was heartbroken,” said Kathy Love, whose sister, Caroline, was one of Wallace’s victims.


The other victims: Sharon Nance, Shawna Hawk, Audrey Spain, Valencia Jumper, Michelle Stinson, Debra Slaughter, Vanessa Mack, Brandi Henderson and Betty Jean Baucom.


“Bad Henry” includes crime scene photographs and interrogation tapes of the interaction between detectives and Wallace. It also includes tearful reaction of the victims’ relatives, such as Dee Sumpter, Hawk’s mother and co-founder of Mothers of Murdered Offspring. Wallace, Sumpter said, even consoled her afterward.


“He hugged me and told me he was sorry for what happened,” Sumpter recalled. “I believed him.”


In addition to first-person recollections by detectives and victims’ kin, former Charlotte Observer reporter Angela Shannon and WSOC-TV’s Glenn Counts, who worked at WCNC during the murders, offered insight of the investigation and community’s reaction.


"The complete story of Henry Louis Wallace and the panic he unleashed in the city of Charlotte has never been told on television before," said Henry Schleiff, group president of Investigation Discovery. "'Bad Henry' showcases the fearless tenacity of Garry McFadden and his team in their efforts to capture this killer, providing justice, and most importantly, closure to the victims and their families."


CMPD detectives ultimately discovered a pattern to the crimes: young, black women were being strangled to death in East Charlotte. Further investigation later determined they’d been raped, but a backlog of rape kit processing didn’t reveal that evidence until later. Another key detail: There was no forced entry to the homes of Wallace’s victims, which indicates a level of trust.


“He was the reason there was no forced entry because he knew each and every one of his victims,” McFadden said. “That was the missing link.”

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