Teen who set fire that killed his mother accepts plea deal

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Fifteen-year-old Jonathan Ray won't have to go through a trial.

He agreed to accept a prison sentence for setting fire to his Southeast Shelby County home in April of 2013 and killing his mom, 45-year-old Gwendolyn Wallace, who was trapped inside.

Ray told the judge he accepts the plea.

Outside court, his stepfather, James Wallace, who was Gwendolyn Wallace's husband of nearly five years, said he had talked with the teen moments earlier and the sentence - 25 years for second degree murder and 15 years for arson - was better than a trial.

"Just didn't think that was good for him at his age, 15, I did not want him to go to trial," said Wallace.

Ray was on suspension from school at the time of the fire.

His mom was supposed to take him back to school that day, but the two of them argued and Ray poured gasoline on the steps of the house and set them ablaze.

His mom, who was upstairs, couldn't get out and died of smoke inhalation.

Initially there was concern if the confession Ray made to investigators shortly after the fire was coerced.

The court was in the process of hearing whether that confession would be tossed out.

In the end, that didn't matter.

The now 15-year-old agreed to do time for the crime.

"Twenty-five years at 100 percent is a stiff sentence, and one that was desired by the family of Gwendolyn Wallace," said Shelby County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Nichols.

"It's difficult, very difficult. Victim and family member, all at the same time," said James Wallace.

Ray's 25 year sentence and 15 year sentence will be served concurrently.

On the 25 year sentence, he must serve 100 percent of the time, which means Ray will be 40 years old when he gets out of prison.


  • Ricky

    Yay! Finally some measure of justice. We all know that juveniles can commit heinous crimes and they should be treated/punished as such (w/no regard to skin color). Make sure he does every day of 25 and not 60 percent or we’ll be dealing w/more murders at his hands.

  • Bold Truth

    About time they handed out some real time. Now they just need to start doing this to all criminals!

  • Chris W wears his sister's G string

    Why doesn’t the African culture think before they do? Guess he will feel at home.

  • Chris W wears his sister's G string

    What a shame and a sad way to die for the lady. Sorry for the family. Too bad he didn’t burn up

  • Kim

    Sad story, when its black kidds they lock them up and throw away the key no one screams they may be mentally ill at the time of the crime only how bad they are. Now lets watch and see how the case of the two young white girls that stab their friend plays out, people already screaming mental for them.

  • whitesRdevilsanhypicrites

    Kim you are 1.000% right. When the kids are black they max them out. When the pale faces involved they make EVERY excuse in the book i.e, mental illness, drugs, etc.
    Did you notice the pale face who raped his baby sister and made his 17yr brother help only got 10?

  • Elaine Day

    It is a sad situation all the way around. Especially when others are using this as an opportunity to encite even more racial tension than this city already has. Please folks, don’t do that. Thanks.

  • 122811

    That is a very long time I dont think its fair. What he did was wrong but he is obviously over sentenced. When and if he gets out what in hell do they expect him to do rob and kill come on people be foreal. He need a lawyer asap

  • Terroe

    Did he ever say why he did it? It’s his mother people. He got what he deserves!! Poor woman died know her son killed her???
    As for the two little white witches…I agree one lawyer is trying to go for the mental issues but I don’t buy it! They planned it for God’s sake. They too should be tried as adults and spend a long time in prison. The vitum didn’t die where as the boy that got life did KILL his mother. = justified!

  • Evette

    He should’ve used the lawyer that rich white kid used, the kid was drunk and killed 4 of his friends.
    He only got rehab.
    Ahhhhh, the joys of being black.

  • Ferica Perry

    that’s just to much for a 15 year old . I just pray he keep his head up. Sorry for his lost even doe he did it. my prays go to the whole family.

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