New true crime documentary focuses on an infamous North Carolina serial killer

The Investigation Discovery (ID) channel tackles one of North Carolina’s most infamous murders next week with the new two-hour documentary “Bad Henry,” premiering Tuesday (July 24) at 9 p.m.

“Bad Henry” recounts the murders of serial killer Henry Louis Wallace, who murdered 10 women in Charlotte between 1992 and 1994, and one woman in his hometown of Barnwell, S.C., in 1990.

Wallace is sometimes called The Charlotte Strangler or the Taco Bell Strangler — the last moniker because he worked as a manager at the Taco Bell on Sharon Amity Road in Charlotte, and because nearly all of his victims were employees there, or were friends and co-workers of his girlfriend, who worked at Bojangles’.

“Bad Henry” uses interviews with Charlotte detectives who worked the case — most prominently Garry McFadden of the ID show “I Am Homicide” — along with local journalists and friends and family members of victims. McFadden gets the most screen time, but the segments with Dee Sumpter, mother of murder victim Shawna Hawk, are the most powerful. Hawk, a young mother who worked for Wallace at Taco Bell, was Wallace’s third Charlotte victim.

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Shawna Denise Hawk of Charlotte. Hawk was the third Charlotte victim of Henry Louis Wallace. Investigation Discovery

The Charlotte Police Department was criticized at the time for being slow to connect the high number of missing and murdered lower-income black women, and the documentary does get into that. Sumpter was one of the department’s most outspoken critics. Often emotional when talking about her slain daughter, Sumpter went on to co-found Mothers of Murdered Offsping, an advocacy and support group based in Charlotte.

As is the trend now in most true crime programs, re-enactments supplement the archival news video and narration of police, reporters and family members of victims. But despite the gruesome potential here, “Bad Henry” never shows re-enactments of actual murders and never veers into gratuitous violence or gore. The reality of what Wallace did to his victims is horrific, but the program lets the pain of victims’ families deliver its gut punch.

What’s missing from the story is any sort of background on Wallace, who is a U.S. Navy veteran, and any attempts at explaining what drove his murders. (He was addicted to crack, and though he sexually assaulted all of his victims, he has said that robbery for drug money was a motive.)

Not sure if this is a spoiler or not, but Wallace was eventually captured and confessed to everything. He’s now on death row.

Read more about Wallace’s victims in our recent story about NC’s most notorious true crime stories, and from Crime Magazine, which has a detailed account of Wallace’s crimes and confession.

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Clockwise: Henry Louis Wallace; evidence in the Wallace case; Wallace’s Charlotte home at the time of the killings; Dee Sumpter, mother of victim Shawna Hawk; victim Shawna Hawk; Charlotte detective Garry McFadden. Discovery Communications

Watch ‘Bad Henry’

“Bad Henry” premieres Tuesday (July 24) on Investigation Discovery (ID). You can find ID locally on channels 76 and 138 on Spectrum/Time Warner Cable; Channel 260 on AT&T U-Verse; Channel 339 on Google Fiber; Channel 192 on Dish; and Channel 285 on DirecTV. If you miss the premiere, you can watch “Bad Henry” on Investigation Discovery’s ID Go app later (you’ll need a cable/satellite account login).

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