JURORS WILL DECIDE FATE OF MURDERER HAZLETT CONVICTED OF 1978 STRANGLING.
Kern County Superior Court jurors will begin hearing testimony Monday on whether 56-year-old Larry Hazlett should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison for the 1978 slaying of a Rosamond community pageant queen.
Hazlett of Sacramento was convicted of raping and murdering former Miss Rosamond Tana Woolley, a crime that had gone unsolved for 24 years until DNA technology helped detectives pin down Hazlett as a suspect.
Woolley, then 20 and an Antelope Valley College student and NASA secretary, was found dead by her mother Oct. 25, 1978, in her apartment in the 2100 block of Poplar Street in Rosamond.
Neighbors reported hearing a scream the night before, officials said. Coroner's reports indicated she'd been sexually assaulted and strangled.
Hazlett, who lived in Woolley's apartment building at the time of her slaying, was tapped immediately as the prime suspect, but investigators said they lacked evidence to arrest him.
After deliberating 1 1/2 hours, the Bakersfield jury on Thursday found Hazlett guilty of first-degree murder and special-circumstance allegations that make him eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors had presented evidence that samples of the defendant's DNA matched stains found on Woolley's bedspread the night she was killed.
Evidence was presented at trial that Hazlett raped four other women.
After working on the case for six years, investigators relegated it to inactive status - still unsolved, but not being actively investigated.
Detective Chris Speer reactivated the case in March 1999 - partly in response to the Woolley family's regular telephone calls inquiring whether any news had turned up.
After reading the old files, the detective contacted Hazlett in Sacramento, where Hazlett was living with his wife, and persuaded him to submit blood and hair samples.
Those samples were sent to the Kern County District Attorney's Office crime lab, which determined that DNA evidence from the crime scene matched the DNA profile of Hazlett, detectives said.
Kern County detectives obtained a warrant and went to Sacramento in Decmeber 2002. They arrested Hazlett at his home and transported him back to Kern County.
Woolley graduated from Rosamond High School in 1976, the year she was crowned Miss Rosamond. She had been working as a secretary for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration while attending Antelope Valley College when she was killed.
Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744