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Paparazzo Mystery Could Be Solved

February 07, 2006|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

For nearly two months, authorities have been looking for paparazzo Todd K. Wallace -- ever since he allegedly skipped bail after being charged with battery over his aggressive efforts to take Reese Witherspoon's picture at Disney's California Adventure.

Prosecutors said Wallace's last known public appearance was Dec. 6, when he defended the role of celebrity photographers on the MSNBC talk show "Rita Cosby Live & Direct."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday February 16, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Paparazzo -- An article in the Feb. 7 California section about the apparent death of a paparazzo incorrectly described a boutique on Robertson Boulevard as being in West Los Angeles. The shop, on the Westside, is in a section of Los Angeles east of Beverly Hills.

Known for using multiple aliases and traveling extensively, officials feared that he might have fled to Central America.

But on Monday, authorities said they might have solved the mystery.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office is examining a decomposed body that was found inside a Brentwood apartment Sunday evening.

Coroner's officials listed it as a "John Doe" case. But sources familiar with the investigation said the body is believed to be that of Wallace.

The case is not being treated as a homicide, authorities said. But an official cause of death has not been declared.

Patrick Ahle, an Anaheim prosecutor handling the Witherspoon case, said given Wallace's past history of aliases, he would wait until the photographer's death is confirmed before assuming the deceased man is him.

"I've been told it could take to Friday to make a positive identification," he said.

Wallace, 44, is a well-known member of the Hollywood paparazzi scene -- and a photographer who became a symbol of criticism by some celebrities who said they were being stalked by the paparazzi.

Wallace was arrested in September after allegedly pushing a friend of Witherspoon and striking the friend's 5-year-old daughter with his camera during the actress' visit to California Adventure.

Prosecutors also accused Wallace of roughing up two park employees who tried to intervene.

Witherspoon, in an interview shortly after the incident, said she had to shield her son to protect him from the photographer.

"He became so aggressive. He began pushing, and shoved our tour guide," said the star of the film "Walk the Line," calling it an "an awful experience."

In an interview with The Times in October, Wallace defended his conduct, and said authorities were just out to get the paparazzi.

"I was not touching anyone. They were touching me," he said.

An Orange County Superior Court judge ordered Wallace to stay at least 300 yards from Witherspoon.

In 2004, Wallace was arrested after allegedly threatening to assault an assistant manager at the upscale Lisa Kline boutique on Robertson Boulevard in West Los Angeles.

Court records show he was trying to photograph Mischa Barton, star of the Fox TV show "The O.C." He was charged with disturbing the peace, but the Los Angeles city attorney's office later dismissed the case.

In court papers filed in the Disney case, Anaheim prosecutors claimed that Wallace used a dozen aliases over the years.

The body was found in an apartment in the 11600 block of Darlington Avenue. The man had been dead for some time, authorities said.

Officials said the Los Angeles Police Department was called to the apartment by friends of the deceased.

Sources knowledgeable about the case said the apartment matched an address used by Wallace.

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