Donald Ray Wallace Jr.

I made a vow this year that I would take every Sunday as my day to work on this blog so that I spent more consistent time working on it.  I have missed a few over the last month due to other things that I have had going on.  There have been times in which I just did not have the motivation or the desire for whatever reason but I would muddle through and made myself post at least one. Today is not one of those days.  I woke up refreshed and ready to go and I am hoping for it to be a rather productive day.

I have decided once again to do a story that is local for my current area. I have done several of these in the recent past for a few reasons.  One of those reason is that I have a very good local website in which I can use to obtain newspaper articles.  While I definitely like using these articles I have to admit that I have often found them also a hindrance. Depending on the crime there could be hundreds and hundreds of articles (this case is just such a crime) and oftentimes I find myself reading conflicting information through a consistent media outlet. The other benefit of using these articles is the fact that often there are other notorious local crimes and criminal mentioned, not that I need my huge list to grown longer, to look into at a later point.

Recently there have been a few high profile cases in the area.  The most recent involved a woman in which she was accused of attempted murder on her soon to be ex husband.  She was accused of tampering with his furnace to cause his death.  The jury returned with a not guilty verdict on the attempted murder charge.  Her defense had all but admitted that she tampered with the furnace but of course they alleged it was not to cause her husband's death.  Apparently the jury believed that as they did find her guilty of the tampering part.  Within the comments to the articles one thing that I often found was a reference that many years ago it was claimed (and honestly I cannot remember by who) that if you wanted to commit a crime and get away with it you should come to Evansville, Indiana.  I really did not pay that much attention to the comment considering that this is often said when several cases seem to go unpunished.  I admit that I am guilty of saying this when it comes to Florida considering both the Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman trials. However, during my research on this case I think I understand when and why this was a theory.  I read an article that was published in the first few months of 1980 that stated that it had been a particularly violent year in Evansville.  They had had an unusual amount of homicides that year already, this case included.  This case remained the second highest profiled case of the year, behind the case of Julie Van Orden who murdered the former mayor in front of his home.  Of the many homicides that were spoken of in the article there seemed to be an unusual number of cases in which the defendants were acquitted or the defendants had been found unfit for trial.  In fact, when the article was written both Van Orden and Donald Wallace Jr. were having their competency questioned.

On the night of January 14, 1980 the police were called to the home of Ralph Hendricks.  It seems that he had come home to find that his house had been broken into and items stolen.  The responding officer took the report and decided to go to the house next door, occupied by the Patrick Gilligan family, to see if by chance they had heard or seen anything unusual.  Instead it was the officer who found something unusual.  It seems that in attempts to reach the Gilligan family the officer had walked to the back of the home and found the window to the back door broken and he decided to enter the home.  It was there that he found the bodies of Patrick, his wife, Teresa, their five year old daughter Lisa and four year old son Gregory.  They had all been shot in the head.  Teresa had her hands tied behind her back and the two children were bound together.

Donald Ray Wallace was soon a suspect but to be honest I am not completely certain just how this came to be.  Of course information was released through the papers and at his subsequent trial but I am uncertain how they knew to look for Wallace, who quickly had his picture posted in the media.  By the following evening Wallace was arrested for the murders while he was hiding in the attic of a friend's home.

This case confirms why you often hear prosecutors talk about how they often cannot pick their witnesses when it comes to a criminal case.  When you have someone like Wallace, who seemingly had a long criminal history, it goes to figure that the people he associates with most, also have a criminal background. When it comes to talking most of them expect something in return and when it came to this case there seemed to be a lot of them who got deals to testify against Wallace.  It just so happened that just a few weeks prior to the Gilligan killings Wallace had been arrested with three other people (Debbie Durham, Richard Milligan and Anna Elliott) for a string of recent robberies.  Durham and Elliott had the charges dropped from that case while Milligan had charges lowered in another pending case (and later released early on these charges) for their cooperation in the Gilligan murder case.  

When I was looking through articles pertaining to Wallace I had come across not only the one where he was arrested with the other in December 1979 but I found a few others.  I was not convinced that this was the same Donald Ray Wallace considering the "Jr" did not seem to be attached and his age at the time seemed to be off just a bit.  Further indication confirmed that the December 1979 crime was in fact the same Donald Ray Wallace and presumption is that the others I found, also pertaining to issues of theft or burglary, were also him considering that at some point prior to the Gilligan murder it was indicated that he had spent time in prison.  At one point of course I considered that this could have been his father considering they had the same name but found no indication of this.  I did try to research his family a bit but I was unable to find much of anything.  At some point, during one of his appeals, Wallace had claimed that there was indication that he had been "mistreated" or abused by his parents and grandparents but once again it was not something I could confirm in any way and to simply take Wallace's word for this not only would be unreasonable but as indicated by the judge who answered that appeal, also likely irrelevant.  

Donald Ray Wallace Jr. did not face trial for the Gilligan murders until October of 1982.  It had been decided within a few weeks of the crime that his trial would be moved out of Vanderburgh County and to Vigo County (Terre Haute) in the north due to the publicity and the extreme circumstances of the crime. However, a competency hearing also quickly followed.  Over the next little over two years there would be four hearings.  The first three came in as rulings as he was not competent to stand trial and quite possibly suffered from "acute paranoid schizophrenia." In the last hearing it was documented and discovered that Wallace had in fact faked his mental illness.  He had written letters to his then ex-girlfriend, Debbie Durham, admitting that he not only was faking the illness but indicating he completely understood not just the charges but what he had done.  Doctors from the state mental hospital, as well as other inmates, also testified to either Wallace admitting that he was faking or indications that his "illness" only seemed to manifest when a doctor or someone who could rule in his favor was near or coming to visit soon.  

Aside from associates of Wallace's who testified (as I said, most for their own benefit) against him the prosecution did have some other independent witnesses to things.  It was determined that on the night of the murders Wallace was driving Richard Milligan's car.  Miligan was in jail at the time so the prosecution knew he was not driving.  It was reported that the car was seen in the area of the crime not only before but during the robberies and murders.  Another witness was Debbie Durham's sister who claimed that Wallace came to her home to see her sister covered in blood and that pictures were taken that contained many of the items taken from the Gilligan home.  She also stated, and another neighbor confirmed, that Wallace had burnt a jacket he had been wearing at the time of the murders.  Investigators had found this evidence as well as a set of wedding rings that were later determined to belong to the Gilligan's.  The day after the murders Wallace called his friends Mark Boylls and Anita Hoeche saying that he was in trouble and asking them for a ride.  Boylls later testified at the trial saying that he did not know what Wallace had done when they picked him up but admitted he had seen his picture on the news and that he was wanted for something.  I find this hard to believe but in fairness I found nothing to dispute this nor did I find anything that indicated Boylls, nor Hoeche, were in any sort of criminal activity.  Despite supposedly not knowing what Wallace did prior to picking him up, Boylls contended that by the time the ride was over he knew exactly why Wallace was wanted by the police.  He testified that Wallace stated that after robbing the Hendricks home he had "gotten greedy" and decided to hit the home next door.  Boylls claimed that Wallace stated that the Gilligan's came home while he was inside and that he killed the adults because they could have identified him and that he had murdered the children because he did not want them to "live with the trauma" of not having a mother or father.  Boylls testimony was just one from many who indicated that Wallace had confessed and his reasons for the murders.  

Although his testimony was put into question one of the most damaging things brought up in the trial came from Richard Milligan himself.  Apparently he had been allowed to testify about the spree of burglaries that he and Wallace had been involved with in December of 1979 but the judge was careful to attempt to make sure those were the only prior crimes the jury were to hear about. According to Milligan's testimony when they had committed the crimes in December Wallace was the "ringleader" and that Wallace would put a piece of masking tape in a window pane before breaking the window inside the home. This was important to the prosecution as they claimed this same method was used at the Gilligan home.  Debbie Durham would hand over a pair of jeans she claimed Wallace wore on the night of the murders that were blood stained.  In a time before DNA the pants were simply blood tested.  There was testimony that while Wallace had Type O blood the pants contained both AB and B types and those coincided with the Gilligan family.

And then it was the defenses turn.  From my perspective they had very little to work with and seemingly did even less with that.  Please do not take this as an indication that I do not think Wallace got a fair trial or a defense or that I feel Wallace was in any way innocent of this crime. They admitted that he had been in the Gilligan home.  I am uncertain as to how or why they must have decided they needed to admit this fact.  Maybe it was from Milligan's testimony about the masking tape, or all the people who claim he had confessed.  But, the defense did not make it that easy.  They claimed at trial that Wallace had an accomplice and they even named him Reggie Lickey.  Like many of the others who had testified at the trial, Lickey too had a long criminal history that involved theft and drugs.  The claim at trial was that Lickey and Wallace had began their night at the Hendricks home and that Lickey went to the Gilligan home alone.  They claimed that when Wallace arrived at the scene the Gilligan family had all already been shot and only Patrick Gilligan who also had other head injuries remained alive.  Seemingly they, and later Wallace, would claim that Wallace beat Patrick Gilligan and hastened his death.  Prosecutors totally dismissed not just the idea that Lickey was present, but that Wallace was aided in any way. A member of the jury would later state that the jury also did not buy the Reggie Lickey story.  

It was said that the jury never once did a poll and had a not guilty verdict.  It was claimed that the first poll was split in which half of the jury abstained from making a decision before it was discussed further.  Within a short time they decided his guilt and on October 21, 1982 the judge sentenced Donald Ray Wallace Jr. to die for his crimes. It took nearly 25 years, many appeals and several claims before that sentence was carried out on March 10, 2005.

In 1987 he gave what seemed to be his first and only real interview (at least to media) in the case.  In the interview he once again brought up the issue of an accomplice and claimed that he had taken a polygraph test to prove his truthfulness. He stated to the interviewer that he did not name the accomplice and that he never would.  The polygraph examiner disagreed saying that he did name Reggie Lickey, to which Wallace claimed later was not involved. The examiner also claimed, as Wallace did, that he passed the polygraph as being truthful although authorities disagree.  So what was his story in 1987?  He basically stuck to much of the story given at trial saying that the accomplice entered the home and murdered the family before he arrived but that he had hastened Patrick's death by beating him with a barbell.  Police claim that Lickey had an alibi that proved he was not involved.  Some claim this interview was given because Wallace craved attention.  In 1986 there was an uprising at the state prison in Michigan City, Indiana.  Reports claim that once again Wallace was the ringleader in which there was a 13 hour hostage situation.  The theory behind the uprising was to change what the death row inmates considered to be poor housing conditions.  All but one of the death row inmates at the time were disciplined for their involvement.  

At some point through those nearly 25 years the sister of Teresa Gilligan wrote Wallace in prison.  As with most living victims of violent crimes apparently she wanted some answers.  She wanted to know from Wallace why the crime was committed.  He wrote her back, once again confessing to the crime.  He basically stated that the family returned home while he was inside and that he had no where to go.  Once again he stated his motive for killing Patrick and Teresa centered on the fact they could identify him while he killed the children to prevent them from living a life without their parents.  I am sure his confession and "reasoning" brought little comfort to their family.  It did however bring some frustration as Wallace continued to appeal his conviction.  

I am not an anti-death penalty person necessarily.  I do believe that it should be used in some cases but not for the reasons that some others believe. I do not believe that the death penalty is any sort of a deterrent for crimes or criminals. I do believe that there are likely innocent people who have been sentenced to die, but then again, I think there are those who deserve to die for their crimes.  I believe Donald Ray Wallace Jr. was one of those who earned his spot on the gurney that received a lethal dose of chemicals to stop his heart.  Do I think his crime was premeditated? No I do not.  There was evidence presented that he likely witnessed Teresa and the children preparing to leave for her parents' house where Patrick was waiting on her and that he went the extra step of obtaining their phone number to ensure that they were not home before he entered.  So I do believe that he was surprised when the family returned while he was still in their home. I think Wallace was a very intelligent person (his IQ at least indicated so), but I do not think he was ever truly remorseful nor truthful in what happened at that home.  Some can argue that he was only 22 years old at the time of the crime and already had a significant criminal history which would indicate his claims of a bad childhood.  Some can argue, I included, that at that age we all did stupid things that we later regretted. Wallace's last words were "I hope everyone can find peace with this" but I feel that was likely one more self serving comment from a man who destroyed a family.


  1. The reason the police focused on Wallace was that Debbie Durham tried to pawn Mrs Gilligan s ring, she was the one that implicated him


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