Teen charged with setting fire that killed mom - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Teen charged with setting fire that killed mom

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Shelby County Fire investigators have charged a 14-year-old boy with intentionally setting a house fire early Friday morning in Southeast Shelby County that killed his mother.

The teen was charged with first degree murder and aggravated arson after an investigation into the fatal house fire in the 4700 block of Bethay.

"Never would've expected this from him. He's a good teenage son, liked by a lot of people, good to average student," says his father James Wallace, who was married to victim Gwendolyn Wallace for four years.

Shelby County Sheriff's Office investigators say the teen confessed during questioning to setting the fire. They say the two had a disagreement earlier which the 14-year-old told them is why he set the fire.

"Let's get him some help because that's not a normal thought process;, it's not, 'We had an argument so let's set the house on fire,'" says James.

According to witnesses, neighbors threw rocks and bricks through the house's windows in an effort to wake Gwendolyn. Firefighters were dispatched to extinguish the fire just before 6:20 a.m.

Fire officials say the staircase had been consumed by the fire, trapping Gwendolyn upstairs. Firefighters were challenged in reaching the second floor and had to deploy ladders to reach the second floor.

"Not believing that that's how my wife... how I have to live... because of this is why I'm not living the rest of my days with my wife," says James.

James left for work at 4:30 a.m. before the fire was set, adding that his son was sleeping when he left. His teenage daughter was at her boyfriend's house when the fire was set. Only the teen and his mother were inside the home at the time of the fire according to Shelby County Sheriff spokesman Chip Washington.

James describes his wife, a post office employee for 18 years, as gracious and loved by many.

"I am praying right now for the family because you don't wish that on anyone," says neighbor Derrick Graham. "Regardless of your disposition, I don't care if you know them well or not, you don't wish ill will on anyone or loss of life. Every one of their family members have heard the news and they are heartbroken."

Gwendolyn leaves behind her teenage son, a stepdaughter and a husband.


FOX13 News reporters Scott Madaus and Sarah Bleau contributed to this report.

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