Eric R. Wallace, accused of fatally stabbing a congressional intern hours after a D.C. Superior Court judge released him from a psychiatric hospital, was ordered held without bond yesterday.
Wallace, 36, is facing a second-degree murder charge in the killing of Claude Rashad McCants, 25, who was attacked outside his home near Capitol Hill in Northeast Washington. Prosecutors said yesterday that they may upgrade the charge to first-degree murder while armed.
During a preliminary hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ambrosino said that Wallace stabbed McCants in the neck with a steak knife at 9:15 p.m. Oct. 10 and then drove off in the intern's Ford Explorer. Ambrosino said Wallace told police that he needed a car to go to a hospital to be treated for low blood sugar.
Wallace's attorney, Alex Ward, told D.C. Superior Court Judge Shellie F. Bowers that Wallace acted in self-defense after McCants allegedly kicked him for no reason. Ward said Wallace took the vehicle to seek medical treatment for that injury.
Bowers rejected that explanation.
"This is a carjacking case," Bowers said, adding, "This is not a self-defense case." Finding "substantial probability" that Wallace committed the crime and is a danger, Bowers ordered Wallace held pending a hearing Feb. 13.
Between Feb. 7 and the day of the killing, Wallace was in custody at St. Elizabeths Hospital on six misdemeanor assault counts. Doctors concluded that he would never be mentally fit for trial, leading D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick D. Dorsey to rule that he had no legal basis to continue holding Wallace.
New details emerged at yesterday's hearing and in an interview with Wallace's mother.
After Wallace was released from the hospital, he was dropped off at his mother's home in Northwest Washington by his attorney. At first, he seemed quiet but glad to be out of the hospital, said his mother, Beverly Wallace. But after a while, she said, he appeared agitated and wanted to go outside.
Wallace later told police that he took a steak knife from his mother's kitchen "for protection," according to testimony yesterday from Daniel Whalen, a D.C. homicide detective.
Whalen said Wallace told police that he first walked to Howard University Hospital, where he tried to get admitted for low blood sugar. After he was turned away, Wallace, still seeking medical attention, walked to several other places, trying to get a ride.
According to Wallace's statements to police, he came upon McCants. Wallace told police that he tried to strike up a conversation with McCants when McCants kicked him, Whalen said. Prosecutors said evidence suggests that Wallace attacked McCants by surprise.
McCants's Ford Explorer was found Oct. 18 at a gas station in Oxon Hill. Police found blood on the passenger side as well as Wallace's fingerprints, mail and drug prescriptions, Whalen said. The bloody knife was also found there, he said. Police arrested Wallace on Nov. 8.
On Nov. 13, a court-ordered competency screening found Wallace competent to stand trial for McCants's slaying.
Wallace's mother said Wallace was diagnosed as a diabetic as a child and suffered seizures for years. She said that he grew more and more distant from his family and that he clearly needed help.
"They should not have released him as soon as they did, just to have him on the streets like that," Wallace said.