Denise Wallace Pens Poignant True Crime Memoir About Secret Life And Brutal Death Of Father
DADDY’S LITTLE SECRET: A Daughter’s Quest To Solve Her Father’s Brutal Murder is the poignant true crime story about a daughter who, upon her father’s murder, learns of his secret double-life. She had looked the other way about other secrets of his, as well — deadly secrets that could help his killer escape the death penalty, should she come forward. An inside look at the complex and fascinating psyche of a father who shared an uncommon bond with his daughter.
but tried to ignore. However, she would have to face her father’s secret life when detectives assigned to the case persuaded her to assist them in the capture of her father’s killer. The trail would lead from the glitz of Palm Beach to the murky streets of Dixie Highway.
From the book:
The banging was coming from Wes Wallace’s apartment next door. Rose Mancini had heard it before on a couple of other nights. She and her husband, Frank, were in bed, but unlike Frank, this night she lay awake. They were both in their sixties now and lately she had discovered that she needed less sleep. A glance at the clock on her nightstand told her that it was well past three in the morning.
Rose looked toward the bedroom’s east wall and listened for more banging. Now she heard it again—and there was arguing, too. It sounded like Wes yelling at another man. She heard the words, “Get out! Just get out of here!”
Enough was enough. Mrs. Mancini nudged her husband awake. “Frank, do you hear that?”
“Do I hear what?” he asked, startled and annoyed. But a moment later there was another banging sound and more arguing.
Then there was another banging sound, this one much louder than the others.
“Do you think we should call the police?” she asked Frank.
“No, let’s not pry. It’s his own business,” Frank Mancini said, then rolled over to go back to sleep. And sure enough, a few minutes later the banging stopped.
Rose and Frank lived in a senior complex where the neighbors walked their cats on a daily basis and plucked weeds from their potted plants whenever they wanted to listen in on a neighbor’s news. Maybe if they lived closer to the tracks in West Palm, they would be more worried, but not here. The closest anyone around here came to danger was watching it on the late night news.
The Mancinis had been there for years. Six weeks short of nine years. Originally they were from New York, but like so many other retirees, they chose palm trees over snow-covered firs. Lake Worth itself was close to the famous Palm Beach they liked to tour on vacations before they relocated, but without the expensive price tag.
Wes Wallace had only moved into the Lake Osborne Apartments a month before. He was a friendly enough neighbor, always taking the time to chat for a moment when they passed on the stairs. They had guessed he was in his fifties and perhaps used to be in the military because he wore his hair in what some might call a buzz cut. It was graying now, but one could still make out some reminiscent brown. It had seemed to Frank and Rose that Wes had more than his share of male friends. The Mancinis had both seen men come and go out of his second floor apartment. Wes appeared to be single, and they knew he lived alone. He had mentioned more than once that he had a daughter and grandchildren out in California, but there was never mention of a Mrs.
That next morning at seven on Sunday, June 6, 1999, Frank Mancini awoke to the smell of warm poppy seed bagels from the Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company in Lake Worth. Since he and Rose had moved to Florida they had acquired the local habit of drinking iced coffee along with their daily bagel breakfast. The ice cubes at the Brooklyn Water Bagel Company were made out of decaf so they would not dilute when they melted. Both Frank and Rose liked their coffee that way.
Just as Frank reached the kitchen table, Rose set a cup of coffee down next to the morning paper for him. The couple both preferred the New York Times to the Miami Herald and were grateful that the Times was available less than five minutes away at the local drug store.
Rose joined her husband and picked up the front page of the paper that he had only just discarded. On it she saw that there had been yet another boom in condo prices. Times were good for Frank and Rose. Over the last five years their unit had appreciated by twenty percent. The Mancinis were far from wealthy, but they had been able to retire at comfortable ages and enjoy senior living in Palm Beach County.
A wall of sticky heat hit Mr. Mancini as he opened his apartment door at a quarter past two in the afternoon. So did the beating Florida sun. Frank quickly grabbed a pair of dark green, oversized, plastic sunglasses from a side table while almost simultaneously pulling the door shut. He had only walked a couple of feet before noticing that the door to Mr. Wallace’s apartment, number 209, was open. Remembering the banging sounds from the night before, Frank now felt obliged to check on his neighbor.
“Wes?” he called. No answer.
His second try was louder. “Mr. Wallace, it’s Frank Mancini from apartment 210. Are you there? Can you hear me?”
Frank was alarmed by the silence. Finally, he pushed on the door until it was fully open. The living room was empty but for an inexpensive looking, worn blue sofa. In front of it sat a wooden coffee table that, in contrast, looked oddly antique. On the wall above it loomed a rather large painting of the ocean. His eyes were drawn to another oversized ocean painting on the wall of the dining area.
Suddenly, Frank noticed the protruding belly of a body on the floor beneath it. The feet were extended toward the kitchen. His eyes widened when he saw the condition of the corpse. Black blood had seeped out and formed an expanded pool around his head and shoulders. There was so much of it; he could see it was still wet. Mr. Mancini stepped closer and recognized the heavyset body of his neighbor, Wes Wallace. He was lying on his back.
Why were his pants partially down? What had happened the night before? The guy was obviously dead. Mr. Mancini backed away and headed to his apartment.
“Honey, call the cops,” Frank told his wife. “Wes is dead.”
Rose’s hands flew up to her face in horror. She reached out to grab her husband’s arm. “What did you say?” She could not believe she had heard right.
“I said, Wes is dead,” Frank repeated. Now they would have to call the police.
“He cruised by slowly, peering intently over his steering wheel at the well-manicured grounds. Though he had been brought up in the Bible Belt of North Carolina, Wes had not attended worship services there. He had gone to the church on this day for another reason: Derek Carney. As Wes passed in his car, the reverend gave him a wave from the open door of the church. Wes waved back at him and grinned, then threw his head back and took a long drag on his Marlboro cigarette.”
From the author: Somewhere in my closet there is a sketch of my father and I do not know where it came from. My oldest daughter, Marissa’s high school sweetheart was an artist. Perhaps he sketched the drawing of my dad from an old photograph; I never asked who drew it. Instead, I just pushed it toward the back of the closet to gather dust.
A decade went by before I came across the sketch again one day while rummaging through the closet. As soon as I realized that it was a drawing of my father, I quickly turned away. Who was this man? I loved him so much, yet it occurred to me that I had no idea who he really was. Why couldn’t I look at his face?
I realized that I could not keep pushing my father out of my mind. What else was I not dealing with in my life if I could not even look at a picture? I decided then and there that I was going to dig up my father’s past and learn who he really was. Then I would write a book about him, and about how he died … his murder. I would order the court transcripts from the trial of his killer, but only after I had exhausted all of my memories with my father first. He had a larger-than-life personality and I wanted people to know the father I knew. Only then would I seek to uncover the father I did not know.