Murder in Evansville

By Chris Bunton

I was in the Aspen Drive neighborhood of Evansville, Indiana recently. It is what I would call an upper middle class community. A place where you can imagine kids riding up and down the street past well manicured lawns. It’s a peaceful slice of Americana. It’s not a place where you would think a vicious murder would happen.

But, on the night of January 14, 1980 that is what happened. Donald Ray Wallace Jr. came here to commit a burglary but left a killer.

Wallace who had recently been released from prison on parole, first broke into the house of Ralph Hendricks. No one was home. He did not find enough loot in the Hendricks home. So, he decided to break into the house next door. It was quiet and empty.

But the Gilligan family came home, and a burglary became a murder. They discovered Wallace in the garage. Patrick Gilligan fought Wallace but was beaten down, and hit with a set of barbells. (Courier&Press Jan. 20, 2005)

Wallace tied Patrick, his wife Teresa, and the children Lisa, 5 and Greg 4, up with a vacuum cleaner cord. He then shot them all.

Wallace was later quoted by his friends as saying, “I shot him because he gave me a hard time, I shot her because she was screaming and I needed her to stop, and I shot the kids because I could not let them grow up without parents.”

Wallace escaped the Gilligan home. He was later found hiding in the attic of a friend. He had blood on his clothes, and items stolen from the house. At his trial, Wallace claimed he had an accomplice who robbed the Gilligan house and killed them. But, His friends stated that he confessed the murders to them. (Courier&Press Jan. 20, 2005) He also confessed to the murders in later letters.

He was found guilty of murder in October of 1982 and sentenced to death.

He was put to death after 25 years, on March 10, 2005 by Lethal Injection, at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. He selected 9 people to witness his execution. Protestors against the Death Penalty were outside the prison, when it occurred.

The family and friends of the Gilligan family, gathered for a prayer vigil.  Teresa Gilligan’s sister Diana Harrington said “This was the starting of the healing for the Evansville community. It was a start of healing for us.”

“Twenty five years ago, their funerals were held here. Now, it’s not their deaths, but their lives that are remembered. Ted Harrington says, “We wanted the focus to be on the family, and the tragedy itself, rather than what may happen later.” Patrick Gilligan’s sister, Sue Hern says, “Let us not forget to pray for one Donald Wallace, whose life has been forever crossed with ours, that he might find forgiveness for his sins.” It was the presence of God that was invoked through song and prayer, but forever in these hearts will be the presence of four lives cut tragically short. Diana Harrington says, “They’re here. I’ve felt them for so many years. They’re always with me. They’ll always be here.” ( clarkprosecutor.org …WFIE “Donald Ray Wallace Executed” By Kerry Corum and Stephanie Silvey. (March 10, 2005, 10: 58 am))

The Gilligan murders are considered one of the worst in Indiana history.

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Further Reading and Sources:

http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/wallace953.htm

https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/362/914/632849/

https://www.wthr.com/article/news/last-words/531-e42d8cf8-74d0-45de-a894-d93452520c4e

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62378866/donald-ray-wallace

https://kentuckyfriedhomicide.com/the-death-row-confession-of-donald-ray-wallace-jr/

https://www.14news.com/story/3056473/donald-ray-wallace-executed/

https://www.monstersandcritics.com/tv/true-crime/donald-ray-wallace-jr-murdered-family-of-four-in-a-botched-home-invasion-dead-of-winter-spotlights-the-case/#:~:text=An%20investigation%20led%20to%20Wallace%E2%80%99s%20arrest.%20He%20was,in%20October%201982%2C%20he%20was%20sentenced%20to%20death.

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Bio: Chris Bunton is a Writer, Poet and Blogger from Southern Illinois. He has written several True Crime articles for The Yard: Crime Blog.

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