Guilt plea in sex abuse case

Published 6:08 pm Friday, June 6, 2014

Merrill Wallace

Merrill Wallace


A Washington man has been sentenced to a minimum 12 years in prison for a series of sex crimes that stretch back decades.

Merrill Wallace, 74, of Cedar Lane in the Rosedale neighborhood, pleaded guilty to multiple sex offenses against children Thursday. Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons Jr.  handed down four judgments totaling 12 to 20 years in prison, as well as the condition that upon release, Wallace be monitored on a GPS system.

“He’ll be on probation for 60 months and he’ll be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life,” said Assistant District Attorney Tom Anglim. “He’ll also have satellite-based monitoring for the rest of his life.”

Wallace was arrested on Jan. 11, 2013. A week later his bond was reduced and he was placed under house arrest by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. At the time, he was charged with several counts of first-degree sexual offenses and indecent liberties with a minor, but over the course of the investigation, several more victims stepped forward and more charges were added, including 11 additional charges of indecent liberties with a minor.

Because there is no statute of limitations on any felony in North Carolina, Wallace was charged for crimes dating back 50 years, though he could only be charged under laws in effect at the time a crime was committed. The sentence for those crimes was set for three years, in accordance with the law before structured sentencing was introduced in 1996, Anglim said.

The crimes came to light after out-of-state relatives alerted authorities to the suspected abuse. According to Anglim, the geographical distance was likely the deciding factor in the family stepping forward.

“I think the family relationship in a case like this is a heavy burden and what is used to keep those who are victims quiet,” Anglim said. “You do not want to disrupt the family, you don’t want the shame the family, you don’t want to bring into the courts.

“Unfortunately and fortunately, all it took was somebody saying it out loud—it allowed them the freedom to make a statement to confirm his victimizations of members of that family,” he said.

Wallace will be almost 87 years old before he is eligible for parole.