Manslaughter case against Wallace Guidroz’s father dismissed

Stanley Guidroz, left, is lead into Pierce County Superior Court in February to face a manslaughter charge in the 1983 disappearance of his 3-year-old son, Wallace. The boy's body was never found.
Stanley Guidroz, left, is lead into Pierce County Superior Court in February to face a manslaughter charge in the 1983 disappearance of his 3-year-old son, Wallace. The boy's body was never found. Staff file, 2015

A man who only recently confessed to killing his 3-year-old son in Tacoma 32 years ago won’t be prosecuted because a Pierce County judge has ruled his admission is not enough for the case to move forward.

Prosecutors this week dismissed a first-degree manslaughter charge against Stanley Guidroz, who in 2011 and again last year, according to court records, told Tacoma police he’d killed his son, Wallace, during a fit of rage in 1983.

The boy went missing in January 1983 after an outing with his father to Point Defiance Park.

Deputy prosecutor Stephen Penner wrote in recently filed court documents that the case against Guidroz was gutted by Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff’s suppression of Guidroz’s confession.

“This ruling effectively terminates the state’s ability to proceed,” Penner wrote in a June 9 pleading asking Chushcoff to reconsider his earlier ruling.

The judge declined, leading to Thursday’s dismissal of the charge.

It was a stunning reversal of what appeared to be the solution to one of Tacoma’s enduring mysteries.

After Wallace went missing, Stanley Guidroz, now 57, told police he’d taken his son fishing and then lost track of him while going for a walk with another man near the duck pond at Point Defiance.

Authorities mobilized search teams that combed the park for days, but no sign of Wallace ever was found.

Police had their suspicions about Guidroz, but they could never pin the blame on him, and the case went inactive.

In 2011, now retired Detective Gene Miller reopened the case and flew to Louisiana to interview Guidroz, who was serving a life sentence after being convicted of killing his wife there. That woman was not Wallace’s mother.

Guidroz allegedly admitted to killing his son, knocking the fussy boy out of a high chair and onto the floor, where he hit his head and died. Guidroz said he drove his son’s body to the Tacoma waterfront and buried it.

That information sparked a search using cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar, but no evidence of Wallace’s body was found.

Two years later, Miller interviewed Guidroz again. He recanted his previous confession but later admitted he’d killed the boy as he first told Miller, court records show.

Based on that information, Pierce County prosecutors had Guidroz extradited from Louisiana to face a charge of manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty in September 2014, and the case began wending its way toward trial.

In April, defense attorney Jane Melby moved to dismiss the charge against Guidroz, citing a Washington law that states a confession is not enough to prosecute someone for a crime.

The so-called “corpus delicti” rule requires prosecutors to present other evidence that a crime occurred, Melby wrote in her pleading.

“The rule is intended ‘to prevent not only the possibility that a false confession was secured by means of police coercion or abuse but also the possibility that a confession, although voluntarily given, is false,’” Melby wrote, citing previous case law.

The state could not meet that burden in Guidroz’s case, she said.

“The state cannot even introduce evidence that Wallace is deceased,” Melby wrote. “The state has no body, no evidence of a crime scene, nothing.”

She went on to say evidence has surfaced over the years that suggests the boy might have been abducted and spirited out of the county.

Penner countered in his own pleadings that there is evidence of a crime, independent of Guidroz’s statements to Miller.

Based on Miller’s “exhaustive investigation,” all indications are that Wallace is dead, Penner wrote.

“His investigation determined that there was absolutely no indication that Wallace was alive after he was reported missing,” Penner wrote. “The medical examiner has issued a death certificate.”

What’s more, Guidroz has given multiple, changing statements to law enforcement over the decades, indicating he is lying to cover something up, the deputy prosecutor said.

In a motion asking Chushcoff to reconsider his original ruling, Penner said additional evidence has surfaced that shows Guidroz felt “burdened” by his son and might have hurt the boy before.

“When viewed in the light most favorable to the state, these additional facts help to establish ... the corpus delicti of the crime,” Penner wrote.

Chushcoff was unmoved, and Guidroz likely will be headed back to Louisiana soon to continue serving the sentence he received for killing his wife.