Justice for Brittany - Ten years later and no arrest in 2008 murder

Published: Mar. 29, 2018 at 9:25 PM CDT
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It’s one of the most gut-wrenching stories to hit the Madison area. A University of Wisconsin-Madison student murdered in the middle of the day, just blocks from the police station.

Brittany Zimmermann was stabbed to death in her Doty Street apartment on April 2, 2008. She called 911, the call was dropped, and the Dane County dispatcher never called her back. Her fiancé found her dead in their apartment nearly an hour after her phone call.

It’s been a decade since she was killed. Over those 10 years, there have been a number of leads; however, the case remains unsolved. It remains a source of frustration for both the Madison Police Department and Jean and Kevin Zimmermann, Brittany’s parents.

“Devastating. Just complete sadness for 10 years,” said Jean Zimmermann, as tears welled in her eyes.

Sitting on the couch of their Marshfield home, the two detailed the struggle they face every day.

“Frustration,” said Kevin Zimmermann. “So many times we thought we were so close to solving this. Only to be shot down with, ‘we were wrong’ or ‘the DNA wasn’t strong enough’ or ‘the people we’ve been chasing for the last so many years aren’t really the people we are after.’”

Over the years, their tears have turned from sadness to bitterness.

Kevin explained, “We don’t know to this day what really happened. And when this all happened, we were promised in six months we were going to know everything.”

It’s a case that continues to haunt the Madison Police Department.

“You always thought that we would be on the cusp – as we did we hope always – determined that this one would be resolved sooner rather than later,” said Madison Police Chief, Mike Koval.

Ten years later, an arrest has not been made in the case. Madison Police have never named a suspect or person of interest in this case, and even now, are not confident enough to do so.

“I don’t think we can say that with strength or conviction,” said Chief Koval. “I think there are suppositions, but my suppositions mean little or nothing unless I can prove it.”

When NBC15 first covered the

a 911 call center was under scrutiny for their handling of the initial call.

Over two years ago, NBC15


that the family confirmed DNA evidence in the case.

In February 2016, the Zimmermanns came forward and said there’s new DNA evidence in their daughter’s homicide. Despite Madison Police frowning upon their decision to come forward, Jean told NBC15’s Amy Pflugshaupt she couldn’t sit back any longer knowing Brittany’s killer is still walking the streets. At that time, the family chose not to release the name of the man that the DNA belonged to, as criminal charges had not been filed. It was then revealed in a search warrant that the DNA found on Zimmermann’s clothing matched the DNA of David Kahl.

Many have wondered if there was a DNA match, why weren't any charges filed? "If we had sufficient confidence in the DNA as evidence in and of its self, probably an arrest would have been made," said Chief Koval.

Court records show Kahl was convicted of his seventh OWI and is serving time in a Wisconsin prison. Detectives have had contact with Kahl; however, Chief Koval couldn't elaborate.

"I really couldn't comment in terms of what extent we've had contact," said Chief Koval.

Later in 2016, Madison Police believed a Cross Plains man may have had information that could help solve the case. Andrew Scoles said in order to turn that information over to police, he wanted two felony convictions expunged from his criminal record.

Jean Zimmermann had contact with Scoles via email before he passed. She sent him a video, around Brittany’s birthday in 2016, pleading with him to please come forward and do the right thing.

In August 2017, Scoles died in a motorcycle accident. Never revealing all the details he claimed to know about the Zimmermann murder.

Chief Koval said the department had reservation with the demands of Scoles.

“I’m not sure what if anything would have ultimately resulted from the proffer of what this person had to add,” said Chief Koval. “With his criminal background and what he was trying to negotiate certainly had to be evaluated from an arm’s length in terms of the objective nature of what he was prepared to offer in terms of credibility, its veracity.”

But, the Zimmermanns feel it was a missed opportunity.

“I do believe he had information that would have definitely helped solve the case,” said Jean Zimmermann.

At this point, with no promising leads Chief Koval said it’s an active cases and refuses to call it a cold case. That doesn’t sit well with the Zimmermanns.

“It’s not fair to us. It’s not fair to Brittany,” said Kevin Zimmermann.

They would rather it be called a cold case.

“If they truly have nothing. If this DNA stuff fizzles out and we don’t get what we’re looking for then I say call it,” said Jean Zimmermann.

By calling it, that doesn’t mean the family is giving up. While they appreciate the work the Madison Police Department is doing, they’d like the help of private investigator.

“There are other people out there that have offered us help. There’s other investigative means not through MPD,” said Jean Zimmermann. “We need their support, because we need the information from Brittany’s case.”

In a statement, Chief Koval responded: “I am not aware of legal parameters that would prohibit the Zimmermann’s from pursuing a “private” investigation of their own. From a practical standpoint, however, MPD would not be inclined to share our investigative files—carte blanche—as we have a responsibility to preserve and protect the integrity of the case file for purposes of prosecuting the case. (This has been noted by the DA’s Office and shared with the Zimmermanns as well).”

The Zimmermanns said they have been told by detectives that they do not want to compromise the investigation and that's why information is not being released.

As each new day passes, the odds of finding Brittany Zimmermann’s killer get longer and longer.

When asked if Chief Koval thinks an arrest will ever be made, he took a long pause and said, “I pray for it. I look at the fire in the eyes of these detectives and I know they want it as bad as I do.”

As for the Zimmermans, they believe one day the killer will be brought to justice, but – “Sometimes I don’t think it’s going to be the Madison Police Department that figures it out,” said Jean Zimmermann.

Madison Police spokesman, Joel DeSpain said tips come in sporadically throughout the year, but that number can often be tied to news coverage.

If you know something that could help police solve Brittany's murder, call (608) 266-6014. There is a $40,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction.