A case featuring a double-execution slaying that Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott described as two of the “most cold-blooded” killings he ever saw will come to trial Monday at the county courthouse.
Testimony is expected to offer a glimpse into the merciless, fast-moving world of the Columbia area’s drug trade, where heavily armed drug dealers make fast cash off customers addicted to getting high and violence is part of the business.
Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life without parole for defendant William Wallace, 29, whom Lott called a “career criminal.”
Wallace is charged with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, three counts of kidnapping, burglary and armed robbery.
Wallace, who had served a stint in prison for voluntary manslaughter, was arrested in July 2012, the same day two men were found shot to death in an apartment off Garners Ferry Road, according to court records.
Wallace abducted a woman on the scene, took her to a wooded area, shot her in the hands and head and left her for dead, according to records and warrants in the case.
However, the woman survived and ran to a road, where she flagged down a motorist who called in law enforcement. The woman then gave deputies the names of Wallace and an accomplice. She is expected to testify at the trial.
Her identification led to quick arrests of Wallace and DeAndre Diggs, 38, according to an interview with Lott at the time.
Lott said that the shooting was because of a “drug deal gone bad,” that Wallace and Diggs had gone to the apartment intending to kill the two men inside.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts identified the two men killed as Athell Johnson, 25, and Jamall Pratt, 23, both of Columbia. Johnson was handicapped and confined to a wheelchair.
In 2007, Wallace was sent to prison for nine years for voluntary manslaughter. He was released on probation in May 2012. Diggs served two years in state prison, from 1995 to 1997, on a charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Diggs may testify for the prosecution at the trial in return for a lighter sentence. His case has not yet come up for trial. In the 1990s, Diggs served two years in state prison on a cocaine charge.
Fifth Circuit assistant solicitor April Sampson is prosecuting the case for the state, and Stephen Krzyston of the 5th Circuit public defender’s office is representing Wallace.