It Was A Match Made In Prison Ewu Professor’s Marriage To Inmate Raises Some Eyebrows
Sun., July 14, 1996
It’s a strange match.
He’s 66. She’s 40.
He’s a long-time government professor highly regarded by students and colleagues.
She’s spent most of her adult life in prison, serving a life sentence for trying to kill a Bellingham woman.
He was married to his first wife for 38 years before divorcing in 1989.
She’s professed her love for at least one serial killer and reportedly was engaged to another.
But Professor James Wallace of Eastern Washington University said there’s nothing peculiar about his seven-year marriage to Veronica Compton, the one-time girlfriend of Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi.
“You’re not dealing with a monster,” Wallace said. “She’s done a monstrous thing, but she’s not a monster. People change.”
Compton was convicted in 1981 of trying to strangle a cocktail waitress to provide an alibi for Bianchi, who was later convicted of nearly a dozen killings in Washington and California.
She was working as a scriptwriter in Hollywood at the time and was compiling information for a possible film or play about serial killers when she interviewed Bianchi in the Los Angeles County Jail.
According to Washington Department of Corrections records, Compton, who was abusing cocaine, “became romantically and deeply, emotionally involved” with Bianchi.
“Through those contacts he was able to convince her that he could be released if she were to commit some copycat crimes which would provide some sort of alibi for him,” the records state.
In 1980, records state, Compton picked up a woman in Bellingham, took her to a motel room and tried to strangle her.
“Ms. Compton had with her a vial or supply of sperm that she intended to inject into the victim to mimic rape,” Corrections documents state.
The victim was stronger than Compton and managed to get away.
Compton was arrested later in San Francisco, convicted of first-degree attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison in the Washington Corrections Center for Women near Gig Harbor.
During her incarceration, she reportedly became engaged to Doug Clark, another California serial killer who was convicted of the sexually motivated killings of several women.
That’s where she was in 1987 when she heard a lecture on crime and punishment delivered by Wallace, a legal affairs expert who sometimes taught at state prisons.
Wallace said he received a letter from Compton shortly thereafter asking him about some information in his lecture.
The pair began a two-year correspondence that eventually turned into romance, Wallace said.
In 1989, according to records in Spokane County Superior Court, he divorced Susan Wallace, whom he married in San Diego County, Calif., in 1951.
Wallace married Compton, who was still in prison, later that year. He said he didn’t leave his first wife for Compton.
“My own marriage had just plain dissipated, as they do sometimes,” Wallace said. “We had just grown apart.”
Wallace said Compton told him everything about her past and he went into his new marriage with his eyes open.
He said the Compton he fell in love with is drastically different from the one who attempted murder nine years before. “If she had been that way when I first met her, I would have had nothing to do with her at all,” he said.
Wallace said Compton kicked her drug habit, got an associate’s degree and began worshipping God.
Corrections records indicate she tutored fellow inmates in English and worked in the prison chapel.
“In fact, she had made a different person of herself,” Wallace said.
Wallace made weekly trips from his home in Cheney to the Gig Harbor prison to visit Compton during the early years of their marriage, and in 1993, she gave birth to the couple’s daughter.
When she was paroled earlier this year, she moved into his Cheney home.
Her freedom was short-lived - about two weeks.
Compton reportedly quit going to mental health counseling, painted “pornographic” murals on the walls of the couple’s home and answered the door nude one day when police and social service workers dropped by to check on the status of her daughter.
A social worker told the parole board the murals were not appropriate in the home of a 3-year-old child.
Compton also wrote articles about necrophilia and other sexual perversions, according to corrections records.
In April, the parole board decided she was a danger to society and sent her back to prison for five years.
Wallace disputed the evidence outlined at her parole hearing and lambasted parole board members for their investigation and decision.
“She has been lynched,” he said. “In this case, the board was both investigator, prosecutor and judge.”
Wallace said the murals contain sexual scenes but aren’t pornographic. He plans to hire a child development expert to determine if the paintings are detrimental to his daughter.
“If they are, they’ll come down,” he said.
Wallace, who wasn’t home at the time of the police visit, also said his wife did not go to the door nude.
He said Compton told him she wore a peach-colored robe that when seen through the opaque front door may have made her appear naked.
He also dismissed the necrophilia writings as a joke.
The publisher of a “murderabilia” magazine in Illinois sent Compton a questionnaire in which he asked her opinions about necrophilia, Wallace said.
“Veronica jokingly wrote one sentence that said, ‘I never met a dead person I didn’t like,”’ Wallace said. “Humor is not her strong point, but it was a joke.”
The parole board also questioned Compton’s commitment to Wallace and their baby, calling her a master manipulator capable of bending men’s wills to suit her needs.
“Her psychological history is quite disturbing, and indicates she has learned how to manipulate more skillfully, not that she has become more stable or less a danger to be at large,” parole board Chairwoman Kathryn Bail wrote in a recent report.
Bail continued: “I noted that there was information in the file that she had, prior to her release, repeatedly told (corrections) staff that she married Dr. Wallace and had a child simply to get out of prison and go to California, and that she had no intention of staying with either. Ms. Compton did not deny these remarks.”
Wallace dismissed both notions with a wave of his hand, saying he did not fall under any Compton spell. He also offered several examples of what he sees as Compton’s commitment to her family.
“I’m not besotted with Veronica. I love my wife, certainly, but I’m not besotted with her,” he said. “Veronica is a committed wife and loving mother.”
Compton took parenting classes while she was expecting and passed with an ‘A,’ according to a memorandum from the class instructor.
After their daughter was born, he said, he took the child home to Cheney but made weekend trips to Gig Harbor so the girl could bond with Compton.
“Veronica kept her breast milk going during the week so she could feed her on the weekends,” Wallace said. “She said her milk was better for the baby than that stuff in cans.”
He also said Compton would cook a week’s worth of meals for him in the prison kitchen when he went on a restrictive diet after some heart trouble.
“I used to carry all this food out in a big ice chest,” he said, smiling at the memory. “That’s what I ate. Since then, my cholesterol level has gone down 50 points. That’s not a monster, not a monster.”
Longtime friend and colleague Neil Zimmerman said Wallace’s news that he was going to marry Compton raised some eyebrows at the university.
“Well, it was a surprise in the sense that that’s not your typical faculty wife,” said Zimmerman, chairman of the EWU government department. “It was unusual, but so what?”
Zimmerman said the marriage did not affect Wallace’s performance as a a professor, for which he’s paid about $54,000 per year.
“It really hasn’t caused a problem,” he said. “He’s a good teacher.”
A former student of Wallace’s defended him in a recent letter to The Spokesman-Review. The letter was written in protest of including Wallace in an article about several EWU professors involved in controversy recently.
“He has demonstrated concern and interest in his students’ academic needs,” wrote Greg Kepner of Newport, Wash. “Wallace is a decent man, caring father and excellent professor.”
He also is desperate to get his wife out of prison.
Wallace tapped his daughter’s college fund for money to hire attorneys to fight the parole board decision.
“There was prejudice all over the place,” Wallace said.
He agreed to an interview and discussed intimate details of his relationship with Compton, putting his reputation on the line.
“I fully expect to be run out of Cheney over this,” Wallace said.
But he doesn’t apologize for anything.
“Veronica attracts a lot of men. She could easily have had someone younger and with more money,” Wallace said. “She chose me because of my character, and I chose Veronica for hers. No one has ever questioned my judgment in any way.”
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