Mother of man accused of killing 5-month-old, setting home on fire speaks out
Cory Wallace was arrested in August 2015 on multiple charges including neglect of a dependent resulting in death, aggravated battery and arson. Court records show Wallace admitted to accidentally dropping the baby and then setting the house on fire. An autopsy showed Jenson Wallace died of blunt force trauma to the head. The coroner's report stated the baby died before the house was set on fire.
Wallace's mother, Cristie Hitchens, maintains her son is innocent. She says she believes there was a terrible accident, but that her son would never do anything to harm a child.
"We thought that we had buried the baby who had died in the fire which was tragic enough, without hearing that wasn't the reason he had passed," Hitchens said, holding back tears.
She said her son called her after the fire started, saying the baby was still inside the home. Hours later, the family found out Jenson died.
"It's like a nightmare that nobody can wake up from," said Hitchens.
While Wallace admitted to police he accidentally dropped Jenson, Hitchens said she believes it was likely the result of an argument between Wallace and his wife, Sheryl Wallace.
"From day one he has said, 'I did not kill my son. I did not hurt my son,'" Hitchens said.
Her son has continued to communicate with his mother through letters. Wallace sent Hitchens a letter addressed to Jenson. He asked his mother to bring the letter to Jenson's burial site, where the family celebrated what would have been the child's first birthday. Hitchens and other family members brought a cake, balloons and stuffed animals. The letter Wallace sent to his mother read in part,
"Jenson, happy birthday baby boy. The big number 1. Baby boy, I can't explain how much I miss you."
Since his August arrest, Wallace has also sent multiple letters addressed to his mother and father. One letter reads in part,
"Dear mom and dad. How do I begin? I'm so lost and confused. My heart is breaking." It continues, "I'm here for the things that I didn't do and I can say from my heart, I didn't kill my son."
The Delaware County Prosecutor's Office requested those letters in February of this year. They also requested letters sent to her by Jenson's mother, Sheryl Wallce. According to law, Hitchens had 30 days to produce the letters. In a recorded phone call with her son in jail, Hitchens allegedly told him she would rather "burn the letters."
Hitchens told FOX59 she initially didn't understand the details of the request. She said she told Cory's lawyer about the request who then told her to call the prosecutor's office for further explanation. Hitchens claims the prosecutor's office did not return her calls. Hitchens also stated the letters would only prove her son's innocence.
In a statement, Delaware County Chief Trial Deputy Prosecutor Eric Hoffman said,
Ms. Hitchens is certainly entitled to her opinion. I can't speak to the evidence in the case. The evidence will be presented in open court during Mr. Wallace's trial which is currently set for June 6. I can confirm that we sent Ms. Hitchens a subpoena to produce certain documents. Pursuant to law, she had 30 days to respond. She didn't. So I obtained a court order, forcing her to comply.
On Thursday, the prosecutor's office filed a 404(b) notice. The notice is a request to include Cory Wallace's 2013 charges of child neglect as part of evidence in his June trial. Court records show in 2013, a different child was treated at a hospital for injuries including a cut in his ear and rib fractures. Wallace pleded guilty to neglect of a dependent on January 20, 2015, less than one month before Jenson's death.
Hitchens says Cory Wallace has other children and believes he was a good father. She says she doesn't believe the whole truth is being told.
"I do not in my heart believe that he would hurt that baby, not intentionally, no," she said.
Now, the family waits for the trail, while they continue to mourn for Jenson.
"Remembering Jenson is the reason that we have to stay strong. We have to stay together, because he didn't get a chance to live his life," Hitchens said.
Cory Wallace's trail is set for June. Sheryl Wallace is also charged with her part in the baby's death. She's still behind bars. Her trail has yet to begin.