WEST ALLIS, Wis. - A West Allis man who went to prison for killing his wife 25 years ago is set to be released decades early. Her family is trying to stop it.
Complete shock and heartbreak is the best way Johanna Balsewicz's family can describe it. They never thought the day would come, and it has opened a new wound of pain.
"I remember the day if it was yesterday," said Kim Cornils, the victim's older sister. "She was 23, just starting her life."
Cornils can't shake June 3, 1997 – the day her sister was killed. Johanna had just divorced her husband when he snuck into her West Allis home.
"This man that killed my sister, stabbed her 42 times in front of her children, left them there with her body, just left them and went to work the next day," Cornils said.
Douglas Balsewicz was sentenced to 80 years in prison as part of a plea deal. After last week, that all changed.
"We just found out through the grapevine of the family that he's going to be released not even 25 years later, he’s going to be released May 17," said Cornils. "Where's the fairness in this, 25 years for a life, what is that?"
Douglas Balsewicz sentenced in 1997
Days shy of 25 years since the crime, Johanna's daughter Nikkole Nelson is at a loss. She was 2 years old when her mother was killed.
"I’m in disbelief that they are letting him out, not even serving half his sentence, concerning the fact that he killed someone," Nelson said.
"I do remember the night, I was actually sleeping with her when it happened. I remember laying on the floor in blood, and my brother came upstairs to get me to take me out after he left."
With a newborn daughter, Nelson is even more fearful.
"It's scary knowing that he will be out, but I know that he can’t contact us," she said.
Nelson and family members launched a petition to reverse the parole decision. Family also contacted the governor's office for help.
"We have almost 1,500 signatures in the last 48 hours, and to see that it has caught the eyes of so many," Amanda Simmons said.
FOX6 News reached out to the Wisconsin Parole Commission on the decision, but did not immediately hear back. The family continues to look for answers.