MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The decision to parole a man who served less than 25 years of an 80-year sentence for stabbing his wife to death has angered her sisters and daughter and is becoming an issue in Wisconsin’s governor’s race.
Douglas Balsewicz, 54, is slated to be released from prison on May 17, just days before the 25th anniversary of the crime. He is being released despite the opposition of the family of the victim, Johanna Balsewicz. The parole was approved by an appointee of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who is facing pressure from Republicans to take action.
“He killed someone and they’re not even giving him half of his sentence?” said the victim’s daughter, Nikkole Nelson, on Tuesday. She was 2-years-old and in the house when her mother was killed.
Balsewicz was convicted in 1997 of stabbing his 23-year-old wife to death in her West Allis home and was sentenced to 80 years in prison in a plea deal. He stabbed her more than 40 times.
Balsewicz was first eligible for parole in 2017 and was denied. The Wisconsin Parole Commission said in a statement that he came before the panel for a fifth review on April 14.
Balsewicz has not had any major conduct reports while in prison, satisfied all of his programming needs and earned a minimum security classification, the parole commission said.
“The Commission has determined that the amount of time served is sufficient so as not to diminish the seriousness of the offense,” it said in a statement.
The commission’s chairman, John Tate, reviewed the case and approved parole on April 27. The Fox Lake Correctional Center has 30 days from the scheduled date of his release, May 17, to set him free.
Balsewicz’s parole was first reported by WISN-TV last week.
The victim’s family started an online petition to reverse the decision, but Nelson said Tuesday that she has lost hope he’ll be kept behind bars.
“I’m at the point where it is what it is,” she said. “It’s very unfortunate.”
The commission said Tuesday that Balsewicz “will be carefully monitored by his assigned probation and parole agent” and ordered to have no contact with the victims or their family members.
Still, family members and Republican candidates for governor have appealed to Evers to intervene. But Evers’ spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said the governor did not have the authority to review or reverse the decision. She referred all other questions to the commission.
Republican gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Kleefisch, Kevin Nicholson and Tim Michels all criticized the parole on Tuesday after the issue drew attention on conservative news websites. Nicholson sent Evers a letter calling on him to remove Tate from his position. Cudaback did not respond to questions about whether Evers would remove Tate.
Evers appointed Tate, a former social worker and Racine alderman, as chair of the commission in 2019. Tate told Wisconsin Public Radio at the time that one of his goals was to increase the number of people paroled.