MURDERER'S CONVICTION CLOSES PAINFUL CHAPTER FOR FAMILY.
ROSAMOND - Conviction of the man who murdered their daughter 26 years ago has brought some closure for William and Helen Woolley, but their loss will never heal.
Larry Hazlett, a 56-year-old former high school teacher from Sacramento, was convicted of raping and murdering former Miss Rosamond Tana Woolley in 1978, a crime that went unsolved until DNA technology pinned Hazlett as the killer.
``It's been one that I hope no one else has to go through,'' William Woolley said of the two-decade wait for justice. ``You just hope every day that something is going to come down the line to let you know that they finally found the guy and convicted him.''
He added: ``There's never going to be a complete closure, because you know the wound is healed but the scar is going to be always there.''
Hazlett was sentenced to death July 14, five days before what would have been Tana Woolley's 46th birthday. The jury deliberated one hour and 10 minutes before returning a guilty verdict.
``I really had a feeling he would be convicted. I thought with all the evidence, how could they not convict him?'' Helen Woolley said during an interview in their home, decorated with portraits and photographs of their four children and seven grandchildren.
Helen Woolley found her daughter, a 20-year-old Antelope Valley College student and National Aeronautics and Space Administration secretary, dead Oct. 25, 1978, in her apartment on Poplar Street in Rosamond.
The murder shocked residents of the tiny town and left them wondering who the killer was.
Neighbors later said they heard a scream the night before, officials said. A coroner's medical examiner reported she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
Hazlett lived in Woolley's apartment building. He was tapped immediately as the prime suspect, but investigators said they lacked evidence to arrest him.
Kern County detectives reactivated the case in March 1999, partly in response to the Woolley family's regular telephone calls inquiring whether anything new had turned up.
``Right after the (O.J.) Simpson trial, I started calling, saying, 'Can't you do something with DNA?''' Helen Woolley said.
The Woolleys' youngest daughter, Taryn, in the last two years before Hazlett's arrest in 2002, called detectives every month to check on the case.
She made a photo album containing pictures of her sister when she was little, family photos, and poems by Tana, and gave it to detectives, telling them, ``I want you to get close to her.''
On the day of the press conference announcing Hazlett's arrest, the detectives gave the album back to her and told the family the album did help.
``Bless my daughter and wife. They never let up on those guys,'' William Woolley said. ``It was as much a relief to them finding him to get Helen and Taryn off their backs.''
When the Kern County Sheriff's Department lab for processing DNA evidence opened, their daughter's case was the first one taken up, William Woolley said.
``The DNA got him,'' Helen Woolley said. ``Technology caught up with him,'' her husband added.
Six detectives worked on the murder case, and one of them, who has since passed away, said the hardest thing for him in law enforcement was having to retire from the force before arresting the killer.
Tana Woolley graduated from Rosamond High School in 1976, the year she was crowned Miss Rosamond. She had been working as a secretary for NASA while attending school when she was killed.
The Woolleys described their firstborn as the perfect child, who acted as the big sister and peacemaker to her three siblings and accomplished much in her short life.
She had a radiant personality, was a cheerleader and student government officer in high school, and had planned a career teaching handicapped children.
``She was always ... if you are going to have a perfect child, it would be her,'' Helen Woolley said.
``She was like a little Mother Hen,'' her father said. ``If a family could order a child, that would be the one you would want to order.''
The Woolleys have lived in Rosamond for 37 years. Their three other children gone, they now share their home with a 5-year-old Pomeranian named Chamois.
William Woolley, 70, retired three years ago as a test-wing program manager at Edwards Air Force Base. Helen Woolley, 68, retired from working in the guidance office at Rosamond High School.
They plan to eventually move to Las Vegas.
A film crew from cable show ``Cold Case Files'' on A&E is coming out in mid-August to interview family members and police about the case for a future episode.
``The reason we want to do that is to let other families in the same situation that we were in know never to give up hope. Once you give up, you have lost the battle. As long as you have hope and are determined to see the case is closed, that gives you something to shoot for,'' William Woolley said.
Karen Maeshiro, (661) 257-5744
(color) William and Helen Woolley of Rosamond hold a picture of their daughter, Tana Woolley, who was killed in 1978.
Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
Julie ann brook (Member): I met this creep, and am glad he got death! 8/2/2010 10:20 PM
Back in 1978, I knew a lady who lived in those apartments, and met Larry Hazlett on one of my visits to my friend. I had my 4 year old daughter with me, and he tried to speak to me "and" my daughter. I told him I wasn't interested in him or anything he had to say, and he cussed me out and accused me of being prejudice against black people. As I was walking to my car, he grabbed me by the arm and said we would meet up again one day. I jerked away and told him NEVER! As I left he got in his little dark green MG, and proceeded to follow me, so I went to the police station and reported him. They said they really couldn't do anything because he hadn't committed a crime...to me he "had" because he had evety intention of doing harm to me & my daughter. Needless to say, I never returned to my friends apartment again. Like I said, he should have gotten the death penalty long long ago.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2004|
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