Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Ex-Hill Intern

Posted January 5, 2004 at 2:03pm

A District of Columbia man accused of murdering a former Capitol Hill intern accepted a plea bargain as his trial was set to begin this morning in D.C. Superior Court, according to a spokeswoman for the United States Attorney’s Office.

Eric R. Wallace was arrested Nov. 8, 2002, and charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 10, 2002, killing of Claude Rashad McCants, a 25-year-old Jackson, Miss., native and one-time intern for Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.).

The U.S. Attorney’s spokeswoman said Wallace pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree while armed, charges carrying a maximum sentence of 40 years. Wallace’s sentencing is set for Feb. 27.

The abrupt conclusion to the tragic case provided some closure — if little solace — to McCants’ friends and loved ones.

Donny Williams, McCants’ former roommate and a Democratic staffer on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said that while he is relieved to finally know that Wallace essentially will live out the rest of his life behind bars, he’s still struggling with the tragedy.

“There’s no place to focus your hurt and your pain and all the feelings about what happened,” Williams explained. “I guess you can only depend on your friends and reconcile it in your heart and hope that something good comes out of it.”

Despite a history of violence that landed him in St. Elizabeths Hospital for nine months in 2002 before the crime, Wallace was eventually deemed mentally unfit to stand trial and was released from custody after assault charges against him were dropped.

Mere hours after he was released from St. Elizabeths, Wallace encountered McCants in front of his residence in the 1100 block of Fourth Street Northeast. Wallace fatally stabbed McCants and left him to die in a puddle of his own blood.

Wallace was arrested a couple of weeks later after McCants’ red Ford Explorer was found at a gas station in Oxon Hill, Md. Police found a bloody knife and Wallace’s fingerprints in the vehicle.

Following McCants’ slaying, the D.C Council approved a bill giving courts new power to temporarily commit those found mentally unfit for trial for up to 48 hours while they initiate long-term commitment for such individuals.

“The good thing is that it draws attention to the problems in the mental health area, and maybe Rashad’s death can prevent someone else’s death,” Williams said. “It’s just hard to find solace in what happened. You’re just left with a lot of memories, and it’s really difficult to reconcile what happened.”

Williams and other members of the Senate Black Legislative Caucus are laying the groundwork for a scholarship memorial in McCants’ name.