Teenager charged with arson, murder of his mother - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Teenager charged with arson, murder of his mother

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A widower is standing by his stepson, a 14-year-old accused of setting a fire that killed his mother at their southeast Shelby County home. A widower is standing by his stepson, a 14-year-old accused of setting a fire that killed his mother at their southeast Shelby County home.
The 14-year-old is charged with first degree murder and aggravated arson in an unimaginable crime that took the life of his mother. The 14-year-old is charged with first degree murder and aggravated arson in an unimaginable crime that took the life of his mother.
James Wallace left his home with his wife Gwen and stepson inside around 4:30 in the morning on his way to work. Everything was fine. Around 6 am he got a call from a neighbor that the home was on fire. James Wallace left his home with his wife Gwen and stepson inside around 4:30 in the morning on his way to work. Everything was fine. Around 6 am he got a call from a neighbor that the home was on fire.
When he arrived at his house he knew his wife, of almost five years was gone. When he arrived at his house he knew his wife, of almost five years was gone.

MEMPHIS, TN - (WMC-TV) – A widower is standing by his stepson, a 14-year-old accused of setting a fire that killed his mother at their southeast Shelby County home.

The 14-year-old is charged with first degree murder and aggravated arson in an unimaginable crime that took the life of his mother. Now he is locked up at juvenile hall.

"I'm not going to abandon my child because I'm not that type of parent," James Wallace said. "He needs help."

James Wallace left his home with his wife Gwen and stepson inside around 4:30 in the morning on his way to work as a security guard. Everything was fine. Around 6 am he got a call from a neighbor.

"James, your house is on fire. I'm like what do you mean the house is on fire," he recalled.

When he arrived at his house he knew his wife, of almost five years was gone.

"She was my soul mate," he said. "My wife was my best friend."

He did not know that his 14-year-old stepson was a suspect in the fire that investigators said was intentionally set.

Fire investigators said the fire was set with some kind of accelerant at the bottom of the staircase. It was fast-moving and created a lot of smoke.

"The young man did admit that he intentionally set the fire," an investigator said.

Investigators said Gwen Wallace, who was sleeping upstairs died from smoke inhalation. 

Her husband said he texted her as he did everyday around the time the fire was started. He said his stepson, a 9th grader, had been suspended  from school for talking back . He had had a disagreement with his mother.

"Nothing other than the regular teenager parent argument," Wallace said.

Relatives say Gwen Wallace, a postal carrier, was a good mother.

"She gave her son anything he wanted," Juliet Ray said. "He had the best. She was a good mother."

"He loved his mother immensely," James Wallace said. "She loved her son. We will be for the next days, months, years trying to come to an understanding of how we got here."

The 14-year-old's family is very concerned about him. They want to come visit him. Investigators will decide how his case will evolve after they gather more information.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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