Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fatal beating was final tragedy

LARGO — Jeffrey Braden was awakened by a yell for help. He got out of bed and went to the living room, where George Wallace normally slept in a recliner.

Wallace, an 85-year-old who used a wheelchair and was hard of hearing, normally fell asleep with the TV blaring and the lights on.

But Braden, who was renting a room from Wallace, noticed the lights were off, the TV silent.

He went to the light switch.

"I couldn't believe what I saw when I turned the lights on," Braden told a jury Tuesday. "George was on the recliner all beaten up. He had blood all over his forehead, his face, his eyes, his body."

Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of the man prosecutors say killed Wallace during a Jan. 13, 2006, burglary.

Stephen Sterling, 24, is charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he and an accomplice broke into Wallace's home, wrapped a comforter around his head and beat him. The burglars then took the man's car.

The accomplice, Eugene Wesley, who was 17 at the time, has agreed to testify against Sterling. In exchange for truthful testimony, Wesley will be allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and receive a 25-year prison sentence.

Sterling faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. The trial is expected to end as early as today.

Prosecutor Glenn Martin told jurors that forensic investigators found Sterling's fingerprints on a window frame where the burglars broke in. They also found his print on a garage door where the burglars exited the home and on the gas cap of Wallace's car.

Sterling's attorney, Charles Lykes, told jurors that Sterling's fingerprints were found because he knew Wallace and had been inside the home to help the elderly man. He said Wesley's testimony will be a lie.

Wallace's death was a tragic end to a life that had endured its share of tragedy.

His daughter vanished in the Colorado mountains in 1974. A few weeks after the disappearance, Wallace's wife killed herself.

His daughter's remains weren't found until 1992. The next year, a jury convicted a man of murdering her.

Fatal beating was final tragedy 08/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2008 5:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Slumping LoMo, Dickerson not in Rays lineup tonight vs LHP


    1B Logan Morrison and LF Corey Dickerson, two of the main slumpers in the Rays lineup, are not in tonight's lineup with the Orioles throwing LHP Wade Miley.

    Logan Morrison is 0-for-12 on this homestand.
  2. Pence breaks tie as Senate votes to begin debating 'Obamacare' repeal


    WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the health care law, taking a pivotal step forward after the dramatic return of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast a crucial vote despite his diagnosis of brain cancer.

    Vice President Mike Pence (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arrive on Capitol Hill, Tuesday in Washington, D.C. [Getty Images]
  3. Rubio helps GOP secure votes to proceed on health care debate


    WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans secured enough votes to proceed to debate on health care proposals, with Marco Rubio of Floirda joining in.

  4. Ex-Buc Booger McFarland becomes ABC college football analyst


    Former Bucs defensive lineman Booger McFarland is continuing his broadcasting rise by joining ABC's studio coverage for the upcoming college football season, ESPN announced Tuesday.

    Former Bucs lineman Booger McFarland (No. 92) will become an ABC studio analyst this college football season.
  5. Trump's political speech to Scouts inspires parental outrage


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's fiery speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia has infuriated parents and former scouts.

    President Donald Trump waves to the crowd of scouts at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean,W. Va., Monday. [AP Photo/Steve Helber]