Cold Case Files - Beauty Queen Killer; The Fingerprint   View more episodes

Aired at 12:00 PM on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 (5/25/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:08>> KURTIS: Deep in the Mojave , Route 14 rambles south into the one-stoplight town of Rosamond, California.
00:00:18Here every face is familiar, and everyone knows Tana Woolley, a 20 year-old beauty queen, "A" student, and quintessential girl next door.
00:00:30On a Wednesday morning, Tana's mother Helen takes a call about her daughter.
00:00:36>> It was between, I think, 9:30 and 10:00 and her boss, Patty April, called me and said that Tana had not come to work.
00:00:47>> KURTIS: Helen Woolley is a mother who knows her daughter, and knows even as she hangs up the phone that something is very wrong.
00:00:56Helen gets into her car and heads over to Tana's apartment.
00:01:01>> When I pulled up, her car was there.
00:01:06I opened the door and the first thing I saw was her, and I didn't go any further.
00:01:13>> KURTIS: Tana Woolley's body hangs over the side of her bed.
00:01:17She is naked from the waist down, has one blue sock on her foot and the other wrapped around her neck.
00:01:25Detectives bag the victim's clothes and bedding and send the body to the local morgue.
00:01:30There, the cause of death is officially determined to be strangulation.
00:01:35Semen is recovered, confirming initial suspicions of a sexual assault.
00:01:40In 1978, however, nothing further can be done with the forensic evidence.
00:01:46Meanwhile, a father waits for someone to explain to him what happened to his daughter.
00:01:53>> "Do you have any idea who it is?" And when they're saying, "No, we don't," then you are wondering, "Well, where are you going to go with this if there's no witnesses, there's no real suspects?" All you're looking for is to find the guy who would do something like this.
00:02:11>> KURTIS: Days slip by and the small town of Rosamond speculates about who might want Tana Woolley dead.
00:02:18Meanwhile a family buries their daughter and waits for an answer.
00:02:32Two weeks after their daughter's murder, the Woolley family believes the investigation has already gone sideways.
00:02:39Kern County detectives are stretched thin, and leads are as dry as the desert air.
00:02:45>> The detective that came to the house was just so overloaded that we felt like it was never going to go anywhere.
00:02:53>> We didn't feel that he was going to be able to put all of his effort into Tana's case, and so that's when I told Helen we need to get some help here.
00:03:03>> KURTIS: Help comes in the form of a private eye named Lew McNatt, who promises the Woolley family he will take a second look at their daughter's murder.
00:03:12McNatt starts with a visit to Tana Woolley's apartment complex.
00:03:17>> I started from each of the apartments, interviewing the people who resided at the apartment, attempting to find out if they heard anything in the first place; if they did, what they heard; and then to go on further and tell me what they've seen prior to the time of the murder.
00:03:37>> KURTIS: Thirty apartments in all, McNatt knocks on each door and chats up the residents.
00:03:42The private investigator is looking for someone who stands out, a loner perhaps, who had the opportunity to stalk Tana Woolley, pick his moment, make his move.
00:03:56Several residents finger one person in particular, a neighbor named Larry Hazlett.
00:04:02The 31-year-old is known in the complex as the local creep.
00:04:07Even better for McNatt, Larry Hazlett lives in apartment number five, just ten feet away from Tana Woolley's bedroom window.
00:04:18>> His front door faced the other way from her apartment, but the window was right there.
00:04:23There was a big window, so he could sit there and watch by the hour, and he has a lot of time to spend and look.
00:04:28You see, that's the bad part.
00:04:30And since she was such a beautiful girl, this to him was probably a pinnacle for him.
00:04:36And so I think that's why he watched her so much.
00:04:41>> KURTIS: McNatt's theory gains some traction when Tana's boyfriend Ricky Rush discloses that Tana had expressed some concerns about the man in apartment number five.
00:04:53>> She had mentioned to Rick, you know, that this guy would be staring at her and she felt kind of uneasy.
00:05:01>> Tana was very concerned because they watched her all the time, when she took the garbage out, when she went out of the apartment.
00:05:08Anywhere she went, there was always someone watching her, so she became quite concerned.
00:05:12>> KURTIS: The pieces are beginning to fit, a theory of murder sharpening into focus.
00:05:18It is a theory that begins at home with a young woman and ends with her neighbor just a few doors away.
00:05:25>> It was like a funnel situation.
00:05:28We've all these people here talking and giving me bits of information, and as it funnels down, somebody comes out down here at the bottom of the funnel, and it happened to be him.
00:05:41>> KURTIS: Five months after Tana Woolley's death, Larry Hazlett slips quietly out of town, out of the reach of police and out of the reach of Lew McNatt >> I developed a lot of people who gave me information during my period of time in this investigation.
00:05:58And so I asked them, you know, I'd go around and I'd say, "Well, have you seen Hazlett?" "No." "When's the last time you saw him?" "Oh, maybe two weeks ago.
00:06:07Maybe a month ago." And the synopsis was that he just wasn't there.
00:06:11He was gone.
00:06:13And once he's gone, there's nothing else to do.
00:06:16>> KURTIS: The private investigator feels he has identified Tana Woolley's killer, but is powerless to do anything about it.
00:06:22>> It's always frustrating.
00:06:24When you can't pin down, especially a murder and especially if somebody that you thought a great deal of, it's difficult.
00:06:33>> KURTIS: The worst part of McNatt's jobtrying to explain the hard truth of things to the victim's family.
00:06:41>> He told us, you know, from about the fifth or sixth day who it was or he was pretty sure who it was, but there was no evidence.
00:06:51They could not get any evidence on him.
00:06:54>> KURTIS: In time, the investigation into Tana Woolley's murder finds its way into the cold files, her death forgotten by all save a precious few.
00:07:05>> I never lost hope.
00:07:07There was times when I'd think, "Oh, my gosh, it's not going anywhere," but I always felt like some day-- I just knew-- some day it would.
00:07:19>> As long as everybody believes that there is hope, you know, then you can press on.
00:07:25If we had anybody that was negative, then it would probably have discouraged all of us, but we never got to that point.
00:07:33>> KURTIS: For the Woolley family, the wait is a long one-- more than 20 years until a new generation of detectives opens up an old file and finds the clue that everyone missed.
00:07:46>> I think that's when the light bulb came on, the eureka moment, "This is my guy," or at least "He's as good as any that I've ies who need assistance getting around their homes.
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00:09:48Call the number on your scre >> KURTIS: In the fall of 1978, Tana Woolley is found raped and strangled with her own sock inside her apartment.
00:11:43The killer leaves semen behind, but no other clues as to his identity.
00:11:49Tana Woolley's family hires a private investigator named Lew McNatt who suspects a neighbor named Larry Hazlett.
00:11:57With no hard evidence and no witnesses, however, the case goes cold.
00:12:03For 20 years, Helen and Bill Woolley wait for police to reopen the case and find their daughter's killer.
00:12:12>> Helen would call, I... I know on the average of once a month and talk to either one of the detectives or they... or they'd stop by.
00:12:22The problem that we had is there was a turnover of detectives on this case, so each new detective that was given the case would have to start off from square one.
00:12:35>> KURTIS: In 1999, the torch is passed to a new generation, and Tana's sister Taryn begins to call police.
00:12:44Like her parents, Taryn is polite but insistent that detectives take up Tana's case and begin to work it again.
00:12:55>> I didn't feel like that they should have to go through this all over again being the parents, so I took it.
00:13:02I just said "I have to do this.
00:13:03Every month I'll call until they tell me there's no..." you know, "We can do no more." >> KURTIS: For three months Taryn calls until finally she gets a sergeant named Chris Speer on the other end of the line.
00:13:16The investigator promises to take a look into Tana's file.
00:13:20>> I look through it, and unfortunately in the 1970s the documentation about how an investigator got from point A to point B wasn't as thorough as we currently do, so there's some scraps of information in the case file that, you know, I considered clues or were potential clues left me by the prior investigator.
00:13:36>> KURTIS: Among the pieces of evidence is a request for fingerprints from a man named Larry Hazlett, the same Larry Hazlett developed as a suspect by the Woolley family's private investigator 20 years earlier.
00:13:49Speer is not sure why the original investigators wanted Hazlett's prints and decides to run a background check.
00:13:58What he gets back is a 20-year rap sheet, including four arrests for rape.
00:14:03>> I think that was when the light bulb came on, the eureka moment, "This is my guy," or at least, "He's as good as any that I've got right now." >> KURTIS: Hazlett is a registered sex offender living in Sacramento.
00:14:15Speer pulls his address and heads into the city for a sit- down with his suspect.
00:14:30Larry Hazlett lives a quiet life on a quiet street, his neighbors never suspecting Hazlett is also a convicted sex offender.
00:14:40On October 5, Sergeant Speer knocks on Hazlett's front door armed with a search warrant for his DNA.
00:14:49>> He voluntarily surrendered the samples and just said, "Here you go, didn't know her, be glad to help you in the future. Good- bye." >> KURTIS: Speer can only assume one of two things: either Larry Hazlett is entirely innocent, or he has gotten away with so much crime in his life that he thinks he cannot be caught.
00:15:09>> It's worked 20 years ago, be somewhat cooperative and just deny it, and you know, "They'll leave me alone for another 20 years." >> KURTIS: Speer returns to Bakersfield with samples in hand, hopeful science can tell him if Larry Hazlett is an ex- con gone straight or a rapist and a killer.?.=(=PCPCPCPCPCPCPCPCPC2h, In 2000, DNA analyst Brenda Smith sifts through evidence more than 20 years old.
00:17:44She begins with semen pulled from Tana Woolley's body.
00:17:48Unfortunately it's too degraded for DNA testing.
00:17:54Smith then turns to bags of clothing and bedding collected at the crime scene.
00:17:59Using an alternate light source, Smith scans the items for stains that might indicate bodily fluids.
00:18:07>> I found some small circular stains, kind of yellowish- looking stains towards the top of the bedspread.
00:18:15I did screen portions of a couple of those areas, and they did screen positive for semen.
00:18:21I just kind of got excited and had a gut feeling about those stains from the very beginning.
00:18:27>> KURTIS: Smith isolates the stains, extracts a genetic profile, and compares it to the DNA signature of Larry Hazlett.
00:18:36>> It ended up matching Hazlett.
00:18:38I've never been more excited on... probably on any of the other cases that I've looked at in the time that I've been doing Dna.
00:18:46You know, I think I almost hyperventilated on that one.
00:18:50>> KURTIS: The match is as good as it gets, with an occurrence frequency of one in 126 billion.
00:18:58Smith puts a call in to Kern County homicide.
00:19:02The Tana Woolley case is in play, with a suspect waiting to be arrested.
00:19:15Detectives Joe Hicks and Scott Jellitich are given the job of arresting and interrogating Larry Hazlett.
00:19:22Despite the DNA match, the two quickly realize the case against Hazlett is far from certain.
00:19:30>> We were concerned that a defense of his could be his claim that it was consensual and that was why his semen would be on her bedspread.
00:19:46>> Our intent to obtain a statement from him is to... for court purposes, lock him into what does he have to say happened there?
00:19:54Whatever he could possibly use as a defense later in the court trial, we wanted to establish at that interview.
00:20:01>> KURTIS: At a little after 2:00 PM, the detectives slow to a stop in front of Hazlett's home.
00:20:08Once again, Hazlett appears eager to talk and to cooperate.
00:20:12Detectives sit down at his kitchen table, cue up the tape recorder and begin to ask about Tana Woolley's rape and murder.
00:20:49>> KURTIS: The detectives have what they came for, a statement from Hazlett they can prove to be a lie.
00:20:56Hicks then takes the next step, confronting Hazlett with the DNA match.
00:21:29>> My first reaction-- Mr. Hazlett is quite a large man-- was that I wanted to calm him down and get him sat back down at the table, because I didn't want to have some altercation inside of his house.
00:21:40>> KURTIS: Hazlett is arrested and charged with first degree murder.
00:21:45At the same time, a mother gets the call she has been waiting 24 years to receive.
00:21:51>> It was really ironic.
00:21:52I was at the cemetery, and when I got the call I was just putting the flowers, and I just told her all the little angels could dance, dance in heaven, you know.
00:22:07Helen Woolley believes the nightmare has come to an end.
00:22:13Turns out she is wrong, as Larry Hazlett enters a plea of innocent and prosecutors realize that despite their DNA match, there is still a very
00:00:00for 18 years.
00:00:02You know it's... it's a