A confession isn’t enough to prosecute Stanley Guidroz for the death of his toddler son in 1983, a court said for the second time Tuesday.
Investigators ran out of leads into 3-year-old Wallace Guidroz’s disappearance, one of Tacoma’s longstanding cold cases, until a detective re-interviewed his father about five years ago.
Pierce County prosecutors charged 59-year-old Guidroz with first-degree manslaughter after he admitted he’d gotten angry and dealt the boy a fatal blow, according to court records.
But police never found the child’s body, and prosecutors dismissed the case last year after Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff said Guidroz’s statements couldn’t be used at trial.
His attorney argued at the time that state law, called the “corpus delicti” rule, requires that for a confession to be admissible, prosecutors must present evidence beyond just the confession that a crime occurred.
Chushcoff agreed with the defense that prosecutors didn’t have enough, and this week so did Division II of the state Court of Appeals, when it upheld the decision.
Guidroz reported his son missing Jan. 10, 1983, and told police the boy disappeared during a fishing trip to Point Defiance Park.
Nearly 30 years later, now-retired police detective Gene Miller re-interviewed Guidroz while he was serving a life sentence in Louisiana for killing his wife, a woman other than Wallace’s mother.
According to court records:
Guidroz told Miller the boy died when he hit his head. The father said he got angry and hit the boy as he was sitting in a high chair, which knocked the toddler to the floor.
Guidroz took that back during an interview with Miller a couple of years later, then eventually again admitted that’s how the boy died.
As part of the appeal, prosecutors argued that people who knew Guidroz told investigators in recent years that Wallace routinely had injuries, such as bruises, and that his father left him with them for days at a time and seemed to feel he was stuck with the toddler.
The state’s evidence might suggest Wallace is missing and that Guidroz was not a good parent, the appeals court said, but not that the boy is dead.
“Even when viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the State’s evidence was insufficient to reasonably infer Wallace’s death,” Judge Linda CJ Lee wrote in the 3-0 opinion.
The appellate court noted that the FBI said in an application for a search warrant that investigators thought the boyfriend of the boy’s mother might have taken the toddler to Texas to be with his mother.