'Inhumane, just brutal': Albion man to serve up to three decades in prison in murder, torture case

BATTLE CREEK - An Albion man will spend up to three decades behind bars for his role in a 2020 murder and torture case.

David Michael Wallace, 49, was sentenced to 13.5 to 30 years in prison Monday for the June 2, 2020, shooting death of Jesse Fyffe, 24, of Lansing and formerly of Albion and Battle Creek, and the torture and wounding of Joseph Lazarus III, 23, of Albion. He was credited with 720 days served.

"All in all, you took somebody’s life ... very brutally," Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge John Hallacy said moments before imposing Wallace's sentence. "It’s just inhumane, just brutal."

David Michael Wallace
David Michael Wallace

As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Wallace pleaded no contest in November to single counts of torture and second-degree murder. In exchange, charges of open murder, unlawful imprisonment, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and felony firearm were dismissed, with a minimum sentence agreement of 13.5 years in prison.

"Had you been convicted as charged you’d never see the light of day again," Hallacy reminded Wallace. "The facts of this case, I think, would be disturbing to any jury."

Wallace's brother, 33-year-old Tyler Christopher Wallace, was also charged in the murder and torture case and pled no contest in July 2022 to a single count of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for the dismissal of open murder, torture, unlawful imprisonment, and felony firearm charges. He was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison in September with credit for 588 days served.

David Wallace offered his condolences to Fyffe's family Monday, telling the court that "in my state of fright and my paranoid mindset, I was scared for my son’s life and my life as well" on the night of June 1, 2020.

"I truly wish I could take everything all back and if I could, I would," Wallace said as he choked back tears. "To be able to go back and not do what I did to hurt anybody. ... I am truly regretful for what happened that night."

Lazarus testified during an April 2021 preliminary exam that he and Fyffe went to the Wallace property at 14225 24 Mile Road in Marengo Township about 10 p.m. on June 1, 2020, to purchase marijuana.

Lazarus said he had purchased the drug several times from David Wallace and that his father knew Wallace.

Lazarus said they found a door to the house open and walked in.

Inside were two men – Tyler Wallace and an unknown third man who yelled "freeze."

Lazarus said he was struck with a gun by the unknown man as Fyffe fled through a window.

Tyler Wallace struck Lazarus and put him in a chair. Moments later David Wallace walked up the driveway yelling "we got them boys," Lazarus said.

"Mike Wallace began to laugh and beat me in the head with the butt of the gun. 'You came to the wrong . . . house. You are going to die. Who are you and who is your friend?'"

Lazarus said he was hit with the gun and brass knuckles and a small baseball bat was used to break his arm. He also was shot in the leg.

Wallace wanted to know the name of the other man, and told Lazarus, "I will have to tell your dad I had to kill his son."

Wallace told Lazarus to beg for his life and to pray but that it wouldn't do any good.

After Lazarus was shot in the leg, the brothers took him across a field to an opening in some woods and told him to dig his grave.

"I didn't believe anything that was going on," Lazarus told Prosecutor David Gilbert at the time. "I thought I was dreaming," but he admitted he feared for his life.

The men brought him back to the house and David Wallace left for about 10 minutes after a phone call from a family member who said Fyffe had been found. Wallace returned with Fyffe but the two men struggled and Fyffe took David Wallace's handgun.

David Wallace ran for cover and Lazarus said Fyffe and Tyler Wallace exchanged several gunshots and Wallace emptied his gun.

Fyffe then began to help Lazarus on his bad leg, and they crossed the road but more shots were fired and Fyffe let go of Lazarus.

Fyffe's body was found in a roadside ditch. Lazarus was found wounded in a nearby gravel pit.

Calhoun County Sheriff Office deputies and the Michigan State Police were called to the house after Tyler Wallace arrived at Oaklawn Hospital in Marshall with gunshot wounds and reported some details of the incident.

Joseph Lazarus
Joseph Lazarus

Lazarus told the court he received injuries to his head, to both hands, his broken arm and the gunshot wound to his leg.

He said the experience also affected him mentally.

"It crushed me," he said. "I died that night, honestly."

Michael Bartish, attorney for David Wallace, said his client denied taking Lazarus out and instructing him to dig his own grave. He also disputed Lazarus' reasoning for being on the property.

"I don’t believe this was (about) a drug transaction anyway," Bartish said Monday. "These were two individuals who came to basically an abandoned house that was used for storage, and (they) had stolen a number of items (from that location) the evening before."

Bartish also said he believed Wallace's harsh comments toward Lazarus were, to some extent, intended to scare the young man "to make sure that nobody like this would ever come back to his house or property again."

"The fact of it is the defendant set a trap. He and his brother set a trap for these two individuals because they had some belief that someone who stole from them was going to come back, so they set that trap and they captured these two individuals," Calhoun County Assistant Prosecutor Nicole Meyer responded, noting Lazarus' ability to describe a portion of Wallace's property where he believed a dead body — ultimately that of a raccoon — was buried supported the fact he was led by Wallace to dig his own grave.

"How else would Joseph Lazarus know that there was a decaying raccoon out there that he had thought was a body if he wasn’t there digging his own grave?" she said.

Meyer also pointed to the fact that Wallace admitted to his role in the incident once police arrived on scene.

"He admits to what he did. He admits to capturing this individual, kidnapping Jesse Fyffe from the side of the road and bringing him back to this scene," Meyer said. "Although the defendant has been able to sit in jail for the last couple years and think about his actions, he took those actions. He did what he did and he needs to be held accountable for what he did."

Contact reporter Greyson Steele at gsteele@battlecreekenquirer.com

This article originally appeared on Battle Creek Enquirer: David Wallace of Albion to serve up to three decades in prison in murder, torture case