'We Never Spoke Of It Again': A Night That Changed A Family Forever

Jun 22, 2018

Growing up, half sisters Glennette Rozelle and Jennifer Mack were used to hearing their parents fight.

At StoryCorps, the women remember the night that changed everything for their family.

It was Valentine's Day, 1977. Minnie Wallace and Virgil "Glenn" Wallace were raising four children outside Oklahoma City. Glennette, then 7, and 10-year-old Jennifer, who was Glenn's stepdaughter, were home on a night that took them decades to process.

"One night, Mom said, 'I'm gonna go to the bathroom and powder my nose.' And she went in there and shut the door, and I remember Daddy running, saying, 'You're not gonna shut that door on me,' and he kicked open the door," Glennette says.

Jennifer remembers they were arguing and her mom was trying to get to the phone and call the police. "And he yanked the phone out of the wall," she says. After that, Jennifer recalls running across the street to get help from a neighbor.

"I remember hearing a 'boom, boom,' and then something whizzing by my arm and hitting the butter dish, and then Daddy collapsing right in front of me," Glennette says. "She had killed him."

Jennifer says her mother was never charged. The police decided she had acted in self-defense, she says.

"We, as a family unit, we shut down, and we never spoke of it again," Jennifer says. "I don't remember Mom ever talking to any of us about it."

"For years, I hated Mom," Glennette says. "We'd be driving down the road and a certain song would come on the radio. And she'd look at me and say 'You know I loved your daddy didn't you?' But I didn't know if she really did, because why would she do what she did?"

Minnie died in February of 2002, and about a year later, Glennette says she started asking questions about that night and what led up to it. "He had been beating Mom in the face with a shoe that night," she says. "Evidently that's what she was used to was being beat on."

"Glenn was dangerous," Jennifer says. "He controlled with a fist — or a leather belt."

But on that February night in 1977, Glennette says she thinks her mom had finally had enough.

Their mom was 38 then, and she stayed single for the rest of her life.

"She was our protector — a strong woman who would do anything for her family," Glennette says. "And I wish I would have hugged her more, done more with her, loved her more."

Produced for Morning Edition by Aisha Turner.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's Friday and time for StoryCorps. Today, a conversation about witnessing something as a child and not truly understanding it until decades later. Glennette Rozelle and her half-sister, Jennifer Mack, grew up outside of Oklahoma City during the 1970s. They were used to hearing their parents fight, but at StoryCorps, they remember the night everything changed for their family. Jennifer was 10 years old. Glennette was 7. And, a warning here. Some listeners might find this story disturbing.

GLENNETTE ROZELLE: One night, Mom said, I'm going to go to the bathroom and powder my nose. And she went in there and shut the door. And I remember Daddy running, saying, you're not going to shut that door on me. And he kicked open the door.

JENNIFER MACK: They were arguing, and she was trying to get to the phone and call the police, and he yanked the phone out of the wall.

ROZELLE: I remember hearing a boom, boom, and then something whizzing by my arm and hitting the butter dish, and then Daddy collapsing right in front of me. She had killed him.

MACK: They never charged her. The police decided it was self-defense. We as a family unit, we shut down, and we never spoke of it again. I don't remember Mom ever talking to any of us about it.

ROZELLE: For years, I hated Mom. We'd be driving down the road and a certain song would come on the radio, and she'd look at me and said, you know I loved your daddy, didn't you? But I didn't know if she really did 'cause why would she do what she did? Probably about a year after Mom died, I started asking questions. And he had been beating Mom in the face with a shoe that night. Evidently, that's what she was used to was being beat on.

MACK: Glen (ph) was dangerous. He controlled with a fist or a leather belt.

ROZELLE: And I think she just finally got tired of it.

MACK: She was 38 when she shot Glen. She was extremely young, and 38 years old, and never to have dated or remarried or found love again. I always wondered how her life could have been different.

ROZELLE: She was our protector, a strong woman who would do anything for her family. And I wish I would have hugged her more, done more with her, loved her more.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: That was Glennette Rozelle and her sister, Jennifer Mack. Their full StoryCorps interview will be archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.