Man accused in slaying has long history
By STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer
Thursday December 19, 2002, 11:09:55 PM
The man arrested for raping and murdering a popular Rosamond woman 24 years
ago has a long history of arrests -- but few convictions -- for assault and
sexual-related offenses, court documents released Thursday say.
But Larry Kusuth Hazlett, 55, is a registered sex offender for a misdemeanor
child molestation conviction and he fits much of a 1983 FBI profile about
what type of person killed and sexually assaulted 20-year-old Tana Woolley
in Rosamond, court reports say.
The profile says the way Woolley was killed indicates an interracial
crime -- Hazlett is black and Woolley is white -- by someone who was
rejected by the victim.
Hazlett was brought to court Thursday to be arraigned on potential capital
murder charges in Woolley's strangulation death, but his arraignment was
delayed to Dec. 26 so that he can try to find an attorney.
He is charged with murder and special circumstances -- eligible for the
death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole -- of
murder during a rape and murder during a burglary.
District Attorney Ed Jagels said a final decision has not been made on
whether to seek the death penalty against Hazlett.
Hazlett lived in the same Poplar Street apartment complex as Woolley -- his
back window faced her front window -- and he was interviewed by sheriff's
deputies Oct. 25, 1978, the day the victim's mother found her partially nude
daughter laying dead on her bed with a blue sock wrapped around her neck.
At that time, Hazlett said he went to the store on the night before --
during the time witnesses said they heard screams, but shrugged them off as
children -- and he didn't learn about the death until the day the body was
Witnesses reported that Woolley, who moved away from her parents and into
the apartment complex just three weeks earlier, had expressed concerns about
white men staring at her but she also thought someone from Hazlett's
apartment was looking at her.
That made her very careful about opening her door, even when her boyfriend
He told investigators she would look out a window before opening up the door
for him, and when he dropped her off -- as he did at 10:30 p.m. Oct. 24,
1978, less than an hour before the screams were heard -- would look around
her apartment to make sure no one was there.
Just before her boyfriend, Ricky Max Rush, then 18, took her to her
apartment that night, they played backgammon and watched "Starsky and Hutch"
on television. Rush was examined but ruled out as a suspect in the case.
No real progress in the case was made and it became inactive in 1983, after
the FBI profile was made.
That profile by Special Agent Blaine McIlwaine says the door jam of
Woolley's apartment indicates the front door was forcibly opened.
He said the offender surprised the victim and hit her in the mouth in the
living room where an alarm clock was knocked over (she normally slept in the
Woolley rejected the offender's advances and he became angry, using a blue
sock he took off her left foot and wrapped it around her neck, strangling
her to death. The profiler called it a weapon of opportunity.
The profile says the offender is probably in his late teens to early 20s --
Hazlett was 31 at the time -- and he will have a penchant for violence and
A criminal record for Hazlett shows arrests from 1969 for drugs, burglary,
assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, rape, resisting arrest before
1979, but only one conviction for assault in 1971.
In 1973, Hazlett was investigated for raping a woman, but the woman declined
to follow through with the investigation and Hazlett said he had consensual
sex with the woman, court records say.
Hazlett worked at U.S. Borax, but quit in December 1978 after he was accused
of making tape-recorded bomb threats at the plant -- an accusation he
His criminal history continued with arrests from 1979 to 1992 for theft,
indecent exposure, rape and child molest in various cities, ending with a
1992 misdemeanor conviction in Sacramento where he worked as a music
He was acquitted of five other crimes in the case in which he was convicted
of the misdemeanor.
The Woolley case was reopened by Kern County sheriff's Detective Chris Speer
in 1999 who began to focus on Hazlett because of his criminal history.
On Tuesday of this week, Hazlett told Kern County detectives that he was
framed in the Sacramento case. He also told the detectives he was innocent
of Woolley's death and never was inside of her apartment.
Detective Joe Hicks asked, "Would it change your story if I told you from
the original crime scene, the Kern County District Attorney lab found
biological evidence of you being present?"
Hazlett replied, "That's a damn lie and at this junction I want a lawyer
Copyright © 2002, The Bakersfield Californian