Their daughter's killer is behind bars. Decades after her sentencing, a Hastings family vows to do what they can to keep her there.
"She's been gone as long as she was alive," said Rogene Aulner, Patti Wolzen's mom.
26-year-old Patti Wolzen was strangled 26 years ago in her own home. While the photos may have faded, her parents pain hasn't.
"Sometimes all of a sudden you get up one morning and think I can't do this anymore. It just
hurts so bad. I want her back," said Aulner.
On December 5, 1982, the Aulners lost their only daughter. Her killer went unknown.
"I was told probably a week or two after Patti died this was going to be a case they didn't
solve," added Aulner.
Rogene wasn't satisfied and made a promise to Patti.
Aulner said, "I could not let this person who hurt her like that get away with it."
She enlisted the help of the Nebraska State Patrol and pieced together a $10 thousand
reward, which ultimately enticed an informant. Five years after Patti's death, investigators tracked down Velma Batiste in Texas and charged her with first degree murder. The motive? Patti's alleged relationship with her estranged husband.
"I had to call everyone and tell them they've got her. They've got her. They've got
her," said Aulner.
The same day the trial began, one of the Aulner's sons was killed in an accident. However, Rogene kept her promise and never missed a day in court. Batiste was found guilty and received a sentence of life in prison.
"I don't hate the person. I don't like what she did to my life. I don't want to do anything
to her, but I want her to stay where she is," said Aulner.
The Aulners said if Batiste goes before the parole board, they'll fight her release.
"I don't think she should be able to do that because I can never come in the door and see my
daughter," said Ken Aulner, Patti's dad.
With reminders hung all over their house, the Aulners keep Patti close and hope she knows they did all they could.
"And we love her and never stopped missing her. I never stopped missing her," said Aulner.
Reporter's Notes by Jessica Phinney:
Wolzen left behind two children, then ages two and four. They are now 31 and 29. Her daughter is married, with a little girl of her own.
As for Velma Batiste, she remains at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York.