Brittany Zimmermann Murder: Family confirms DNA match in case
UPDATED: Friday, February 16, 2016 --- 9:45 p.m.
Madison, Wis. --- For the first time in several years, there's new information surrounding one of Madison's unsolved murders. The parents of Brittany Zimmermann say there's new DNA evidence in their daughter's homicide case.
Despite the Madison Police Department frowning upon their decision to come forward, Jean Zimmermann tells NBC15's Amy Pflugshaupt she couldn't sit back any longer knowing Brittany's killer is still walking the streets.
Jean, the mother of Zimmermann, declined a recorded phone interview, but did share several details in her conversation. She said when she first found out about the DNA match, she thought it was an "open and shut case." Little did she know months and months would pass with no arrest.
On Friday, Jean and her husband, Kevin, met with MPD. Despite this DNA evidence, officers told them they weren't ready to make an arrest. Jean said her fear is that "it could be 30 years later and they still wouldn't have enough evidence."
With frustrations mounting, Jean said the family had to do what they felt was right in hopes of getting justice for Brittany.
On Tuesday, the Zimmermann family released a statement saying in part:
"We are confirming that there was a DNA match in our daughter Brittany’s homicide investigation. We are choosing not to release his name as we understand that the DA’s office is not prepared to file charges. We are hopeful that someone will come forward with information that would bring the investigation to the point that an arrest could be made and charges be filed. "
Jean emphasized said didn't want to release information that would jeopardize the case. She said it could be a couple years or more yet; however, "I'm never going to say I'm never going to say it."
She said the past eight years have been tough on the entire family, but their holding strong for Brittany's sake.
She spoke proudly of her new grandson, but said, "It's heartbreaking knowing he'll never know his Auntie Brittany."
Jean also spoke about Jordan Gonnering. He was Zimmermann's fiance at the time of her death. She said in a cheerful voice that he is doing great and has taken a job out of the state. Jean recently spoke to Gonnering on Friday. He also weighed in on the decision to release this statement with the hopes of getting justice for Brittany.
There is a $40,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Brittany's murderer. In a powerful closing line of the family's statement it reads:
"We are not looking for any type of closure, just justice for Brittany."
Zimmermann,21, was stabbed to death in her Doty Street apartment in April 2008. A 911 call was made from her cell phone that same day. A dispatcher hung up on her because she didn't hear anyone on the other end of the line. Zimmermann's death led to big changes at Dane County's 911 Center because the operator never reported the disconnected call.
UPDATED: Friday, February 16, 2016 --- 5:09 p.m.
MADISON, Wis. --- The family of a UW Madison student who was killed in her apartment in 2008 says a DNA match has been made in the case.
21-year-old Brittany Zimmermann was stabbed to death in her Doty Street apartment in April 2008. In a statement, Zimmermann's parents say they are choosing not to release the person's name because the Dane County DA is not ready to file charges.
The family reported the person who they believe is responsible for the murder has been free for nearly eight years. They believe this person may have spoken to others who have been in prison about the murder.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval released a statement Tuesday afternoon. He says he cannot comment on this investigation because it is still being treated as an open case.
Zimmermann called 911 from her cell phone, but the call was cut off. The dispatcher did not call her back. The phone call prompted a policy change at the Dane County 911 center.
UPDATED: Saturday, September 29, 2012 --- 6:12p.m.
People laced up their shoes to raise awareness about an unsolved murder in Madison. The Brittany Zimmermann run/walk was held in Madison on Saturday. The UW-Madison student was killed in her apartment in 2008. Her killer is still on the loose.
The run/walk was created by her family three years ago. They hope it helps keep her case on people's minds, possibly leading to a tip to the suspect.
Proceeds from the event go to the Madison Area Crime Stoppers.
UPDATED Sunday, September 16, 2012 --- 11:15 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The annual run to raise awareness about Brittany Zimmermann's unsolved homicide is changing locations.
The 21-year-old was strangled and stabbed after someone forced open a door to her apartment building in April 2008.
The third annual Brittany Run Sept. 29 benefits a fund that helps law enforcement solve crimes by offering money for information leading to arrests. It was previously called Brittany Zimmermann 5K Run/Walk.
In the first two years, the event started at Library Mall and Memorial Union, but due to construction projects the route was relocated to go along the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path next to Lake Mendota.
Zimmermann's parents plan to greet participants as they cross the finish line.
Officials also hope the event will promote crime prevention throughout the area.
Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.
UPDATED Monday, September 10, 2012 --- 4:05 p.m.
Press Release from UW-Madison:
MADISON - On April 2, 2008, 21-year-old UW-Madison junior Brittany Zimmermann of Marshfield was murdered in her campus-area apartment. Her killer is still at large.
In 2009 Brittany's family, UW-Madison Police and Madison Area Crime Stoppers founded the Brittany Zimmermann 5K Run/Walk to raise awareness about her unsolved case and to promote crime prevention throughout the Madison area.
This fall the renamed, third annual Brittany Run/Brittany Zimmermann 5K Run/Walk will take place on Saturday, Sept. 29, starting at 9 a.m. at the university's Lot 60, located on the west end of campus across from the McClimon Soccer Complex and the Goodman Diamond. Parking in the lot will be free.
Runners and walkers will travel along the scenic Howard Temin Lakeshore Path next to Lake Mendota. As in previous years, Brittany's parents will greet participants as they cross the finish line. In the first two years, the event started at Library Mall and Memorial Union, but due to the major construction projects in that area, the route was relocated.
The entry fee is $25 until Tuesday, Sept. 25, and $30 for late registration or registering on the day of the event. Participants must register online at http://madisonareacrimestoppers.org/zimmermann5k/ to guarantee they will receive a race t-shirt.
All proceeds go to support Madison Area Crime Stoppers activities on campus and throughout Dane County.
South Campus Police Officer Erik Pearce, one of the event's coordinators, said more than 300 people participated last year. He noted that the post-race event is very festive and features music and lots of door prizes.
There is not a home football game that day and the Badgers don't play Nebraska until 7 p.m.
UPDATED Monday, April 2, 2012 --- 3:30 p.m.
Four years ago today, Brittany Zimmermann was murdered in her Madison apartment. The case was sidetracked early after a 911 dispatcher did not properly handle a call from Brittany's phone. No arrests have been made, but Madison Police say the case is not cold.
On this somber anniversary, Madison police spokesperson Howard Payne issued the following statement:
"In recognizing the anniversary date of the Zimmermann homicide, The Madison Police Department continues to systematically review all information developed since April 2nd, 2008, to ensure that all investigative means have been utilized to solve this case.
There have been no recent developments in this case, but The Madison Police Department remains vigilant in this active investigation.
The public is reminded to come forward with any information regarding this case or any other, as the smallest of details can prove to be extremely helpful in our efforts at solving a crime of this nature. "
UPDATED Friday, September 2, 2011 -- 5:45pm
By Zac Schultz
Madison: Brittany Zimmermann was murdered in her apartment on April 2nd, 2008 and while most people remember the date year by year, Kevin and Jean Zimmermann say each day is another anniversary of Brittany's death. "To you it's just September 2nd. To us it's been 41 months today since Brittany died," says Jean.
The Zimmermann's are in town to promote the 2nd Brittany Zimmermann 5K run/walk, an event that raises money for Crimestoppers and a reward fund to help solve Brittany's murder.
"We hope by doing this it keeps Brittany's name out there, along with everybody else's that's been a victim of crime," says Kevin.
Brittany was murdered in the middle of the afternoon. The case was sidetracked early after a 911 dispatcher did not properly handle a call from Brittany's phone.
No arrests have been made, but Madison Police say the case is not cold. "It is an active case, we're taking it to where the leads take us in that investigation," says Capt. Carl Gloede.
In fact, police say information leading to the killer is out there.
"We know there are people that know who killed Brittany," says Jean. "For whatever reason they refuse to give that information of who it was."
The reward fund is up to $40,000. The Zimmermann's don't know if more money would get them the information they need. "I'm not sure how much money it would take. If I knew that amount would offer that amount. Because nothing in life is worth the misery that we've gone through for 41 months," says Jean.
The Brittany Zimmermann 5k run/walk will take place September 17th. About 400 people participated last year and they're hoping for the same or better this time.
UPDATED Monday, December 13, 2010 --- 7:02 p.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Police are investigating whether the unsolved killing of a University of Wisconsin-Madison student is linked to a bar break-in.
Assistant City Attorney Roger Allen tells the Wisconsin State Journal there is a "possible connection" between the strangulation and stabbing death of Brittany Zimmermann on April 2, 2008, and a break-in at the Blue Moon Bar and Grill three months later. Three teens have admitted involvement in the bar burglary.
Police aren't saying why they think the crimes may be linked. But the State Journal says its review of police and court records suggests an unknown accomplice to the burglary may have been involved in the homicide.
Zimmermann, a 21-year-old student from Marshfield, was killed after returning from an exam after someone forced open the outside door to her apartment building.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATED Wednesday, November 24, 2010 --- 1:55 p.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Dane County has settled a lawsuit with the family of a woman who was slain in her Madison apartment.
A news release from the Bell, Moore & Richter law firm, which represented the county, says the county will contribute $5,000 to a reward fund started to help find 21-year-old Brittany Zimmermann's killer. It also will pay $2,500 to the family's lawyer to settle the suit, which alleged the county was negligent in handling a 911 call.
In April 2008, Zimmermann called 911, presumably for help, but the dispatcher did not send police or call back after being disconnected. He fiance later found her slain.
The county says settling the suit was "in the public interest." The family says its goal was to ensure "this did not happen to anyone else."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATED Wednesday, November 24, 2010 --- 12:17 p.m.
A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit between the Estate of Brittany Zimmermann and Dane County.
We've received the following press release from BELL, MOORE & RICHTER, S.C.:
RE: Estate of Brittany Zimmermann, et. al vs. Dane County, et. al Dane County Circuit Court Case Number 2008CV002830
The Parties have reached a settlement in this matter, based on the following terms:
-Dane County maintains it has complied with all applicable laws and regulations, but believes this settlement is in the public interest as it provides resolution for the family and community and saves further expense of ongoing litigation;
-Dane County will contribute $5,000 to the Zimmermann Reward Fund and $2,500 to the family's attorney; and
-The Plaintiffs assert that they did not commence this action against Dane County for the purpose of recovering money and their goal was to make sure this did not happen to anyone else.
The Parties involved in this matter have agreed not to make any further comment to the media regarding this settlement.
UPDATED Monday, September 13, 2010 -- 5:00 p.m.
By NBC15's Dana Brueck
A new effort's underway to help find the killer of a UW Madison student.
Twenty-one-year-old Brittany Zimmermann was found by her fiancee, stabbed to death, in their West Doty Street apartment.
The 3rd year senior was killed mid-day April 2nd, 2008.
The Marshfield native had been pursuing a career in public health and infectious diseases.
Her case remains unsolved.
Now, her family's stepping forward in support of the Brittany Zimmermann Memorial 5K run/walk!
"Brittany was a humanitarian... Brittany would've wanted to be a part of it," her parents say in an online video.
With an online video and a Madison appearance Monday, the parents of Brittany Zimmermann want to get the word out.
A 5K run/walk in October, in memory of their daughter, is raising money for Madison Area Crime Stoppers and a private reward fund.
"When it was brought to our attention what it was going to be ...
that half the money would go to Brittany's reward fund and half to Crime Stoppers, we were 100 percent for it," Jean Zimmermann says.
The private fund's currently at 19-thousand dollars.
The Marshfield couple joined local police to talk about the effort...to keep Brittany's memory alive... educate students about her 2008 murder... and find her killer.
"Renewing attention around the murder is important so people again think back, try to remember where they were, what they might've seen that they didn't think was important that today looking back might be important," UW Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling says.
"Hopefully someone will come forward that knows any information about her case but we want to make sure all of the students are safe," Jean says.
The Zimmermanns say they, too, will walk... and greet people at the finish line, thanking them for their support.
And, they'll return for at least four more years to the city loved by Brittany!
"If it's solved, it's not going to stop us we're going to keep coming," Kevin Zimmermann says.
The 5K run/walk is October 2nd on campus.
It starts at 9 a.m., and the race fee is 20-dollars...with overall winners getting cash prizes.
Meantime, Madison's Police Chief says the investigation is active - and the case, solvable.
"We've added investigative resources to this because we do believe that this is a solvable case and when I say solvable, I'm not talking about years out. We think that we're making progress," Chief Noble Wray says.
He says he believes additional reward money could tip the scale for someone with information to come forward.
UPDATED Friday, September 10, 2010 --- 2:55 p.m.
The Brittany Zimmermann Memorial 5k Run/Walk is set for October 2nd.
The run starts at 9:00 AM. Packet pickup will be from 7am-8:30am on the UW Library Mall, 800 block of Langdon Street.
Race fee is $20.00. For more information, or to Register visit www.madisonareacrimestoppers.org . Online registration closes September 30th, 2010. Your race fee includes a free race t-shirt, post race refreshments, and the opportunity to help take a bite out of crime!
CA$H prizes given out to the top 3 overall male and female placers. Age group awards will be given out to the top 3 runners in each age group. Must be present to accept your award.
On April, 2008 the UW Community and Zimmermann family experienced an unimaginable tragedy when Brittany Zimmermann was murdered in her downtown Madison apartment. Determined to prevent similar tragedies, the Madison Area Crime Stoppers and the Zimmermann family have partnered up to provide the Brittany Zimmermann Memorial 5k Run/Walk. The inaugural event will be held on the scenic UW Madison campus. Proceeds from this charity event will help fund Crime Stoppers activities in Dane County, and during the first year, half the proceeds will go to the Zimmermann family to use towards solving Brittany’s murder.
There will be an aid station at the turn-around (Water and Powerade provided). Emergency Medical support and Police traffic direction will also be provided along the course route.
The Madison Area Crime Stoppers is always seeking support. MACS does not receive funding from any federal, state or local governmental sources. We are a volunteer organization and are supported solely by community contributions. Your contributions are needed to help keep us in business and get criminals out of your neighborhoods. If you are interested in supporting this event or the Madison Area Crime Stoppers, please contact us at email@example.com.
This 5k (3.1m) course starts near the historic Library Mall and takes runners and walkers up Observatory Drive, through the beautiful UW Madison Campus. There will be an aid station at the turn around (Water and Powerade provided). Then the course takes participants back along the scenic Howard Temin Lake Path.
UPDATED Thursday, July 22, 2010 --- 8:50 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A court says the fiance of a slain University of Wisconsin-Madison student cannot recover damages for finding her dead body.
The District 4 Court of Appeals on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits filed by Jordan Gonnering, the fiance of Brittany Zimmermann.
Gonnering discovered her body in the Madison apartment they shared in April 2008 after she was killed by an intruder who still has not been caught.
Gonnering had filed lawsuits alleging Dane County authorities failed to respond to a 911 call she made before she died, and that the apartment owners failed to secure the building. He said both were negligent and contributed to his emotional distress.
The court said such claims can only be brought by family members under Wisconsin law, and a fiance does not fall in that category.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATED Thursday, July 1, 2010 --- 7:15 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Dane County judge has ruled a negligence claimed filed by the family of a slain student should wait until after the criminal investigation.
An intruder strangled and stabbed to death 21-year-old Brittany Zimmermann on April 2, 2008. Her killer has not been found.
Her family filed the negligence claim against 911 dispatcher Rita Gahagan. Police have said A 911 call from Zimmermann's cell phone was made around the time she was killed.
Gahagan handled the call, but union officials have said she heard nothing.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports the judge indicated Wednesday there are enough disputed facts as to the 911 call's timing and the cause of the call's disconnection. The judge also said a jury should decide whether Zimmermann suffered emotional distress caused by the call.
Wisconsin State Journal
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATED Wednesday, January 20, 2010 --- 1:20 p.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court won't intervene in a dispute over whether the fiance of a slain University of Wisconsin-Madison student can recover damages in the death.
Jordan Gonnering discovered the body of Brittany Zimmermann in the apartment they shared in April 2008. Police say an unknown intruder broke in and stabbed Zimmermann to death.
Gonnering is suing Dane County for failing to respond to a 911 call she made before she died, and the apartment's management for failing to secure the building. Judges threw out both claims, ruling that only family members qualify for such damages.
Gonnering argues he and Zimmermann were family, and his lawyers asked the high court to take the case. The court's refusal sends the case back to an appeals court, which has yet to rule.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATED Sunday, November 15, 2009 --- 7:20 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The family of a Madison college student who was killed last year isn't giving up its efforts to find her killer.
Relatives of Brittany Zimmermann have placed ads on a Madison billboard and inside Metro Transit buses. They're hoping the ads will encourage anyone with information on her 2008 death to come forward.
Zimmermann was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was stabbed in her apartment while calling 911. The operator didn't send police to investigate and said she didn't hear the scream or sounds of a struggle that are audible on the call.
Jean Zimmermann of Marshfield says Sunday would have been her daughter's 23rd birthday. She says the ads are the greatest gift she could give under the circumstances.
Police haven't identified a suspect.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
UPDATED Tuesday, June 2, 2009---2:42 p.m.
A lawsuit filed against Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk by the family of Brittany Zimmermann has been dismissed.
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued a ruling today saying the Zimmermann family cannot sue Falk or Dane County over an alleged lack of funding for the 9-1-1 center.
Brittany Zimmermann made a 9-1-1 call just moments before she was murdered in her apartment in April of 2008. The 9-1-1- operator did not hear any sound on the call and when the call was disconnected she failed to call back or dispatch police.
Zimmermann's family and her fiance Jordon Gonnering sued the county, falk, the 9-1-1 center and the dispatcher.
The judge ruled today the county cannot be sued because it has governmental immunity.
Falk and the operator cannot be sued individually because they were doing their jobs.
The judge ruled Gonnering cannot sue because he is not a family member.
The Zimmermann's lawsuit against the 9-1-1 center was not challenged and will go forward.
UPDATED Wednesday, May 27, 2009 --- 7:40 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Dane County judge will decide by the end of next week whether to throw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents and fiance of Brittany Zimmermann.
Judge Maryann Sumi says she'll issue a written decision on, or before June 5 as to whether she'll dismiss the lawsuit or exclude any defendants.
Kevin and Jean Zimmermann and fiance Jordan Gonnering allege Dane County, County Executive Kathleen Falk and former 911 dispatcher Rita Gahagen were negligent in their duties and that resulted in the murder of the University of Wisconsin-Madison student at her apartment last year.
In April 2008, Zimmermann called 911, presumably for help, but the dispatcher did not send police or call back after being disconnected. Gonnering later found Zimmermann slain.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATED Tuesday, March 31, 2009 --- 4:30 p.m.
On April 2, 2008 UW Madison student Brittany Zimmermann was murdered inside her West Doty Street apartment. Thursday, on the UW campus students, staff and faculty honored her life -- exactly one year after it was taken.
On the above date at 12:20 in the afternoon. Brittany Zimmermann was murdered in her West Doty Street Apartment. Exactly one year later, at 12:20, people gathered at the Carrilon Tower to honor her life and pay their respects.
"I have children who are about her age and I would be floored I would be crushed if something like this happened. It is just terrible. The injustice of it is terrible," said Debbie Klimet who works at the university.
Her family and many others looked on with tears in their eyes.
Added student Abby Sears, "Seeing how the family is dealing with it and all the people that are here today remembering her I think it is kind of overwhelming."
The bells tolled 21 times. Once for every year she was alive.
"I could have been walking home. It could have been me. It really affects you," stated Caitlin Gath.
"I am really honored we were invited to do this because it means a lot that they want us to get involved to remember their daughter too," said Color Guard member and student Kathleen Carey. The Color Guard led the ceremony.
"I wanted to pay my respects. She was a Badger. She was doing the same things I am doing. I think she deserved it," concluded Gath speaking of her attendance.
The MPD has released updated information on the search for Brittany Zimmermann murderer.
Over the past year 143 officers have spent time on this case, generated 220 tips, filing 2900 pages of reports and contacting 700 people.
They have also partnered with other law enforcement agencies to further their investigation.
Their search has become more focused and Police Chief Noble Wray says he believes they will solve this tragic crime.
There are two reward funds available, the one by the family has reached $15,000 and another offered by Crimes Stoppers is at $1,000.
A scholarship fund has also been set up in Brittany Zimmermann's honor.
It is called "Dollars for Brittany". If you would like to donate head to our webchannel and clink on newslinks.
UPDATED Tuesday, March 31, 2009 --- 10:25 a.m.
From the University of Wisconsin:
MADISON - The late Brittany Zimmermann will be in the thoughts of University of Wisconsin-Madison students, faculty and staff on the one-year anniversary of her death, Thursday, April 2.
"Brittany is still very much in our minds and hearts," says Dean of Students Lori Berquam. "On Thursday, we plan to celebrate her memory."
To honor Zimmermann, the Carillon Tower bells will toll 21 times, one chime for each year of her life, at 12:20 p.m., the approximate time of her death.
Members of the campus community are invited to observe the ceremony from the Carillon Tower base, 1160 Observatory Drive.
During the chimes, the Army ROTC Color Guard will present the colors in remembrance of the positive impact she had during her life.
Following the tolling of the bells, carillonneur Lyle Anderson will play "Intermezzo for Delft" by Leen't Hart. Also on April 2, Berquam will also meet with Zimmermann's parents, Kevin and Jean.
Zimmermann was killed inside her downtown Madison apartment on April 2, 2008, and the investigation into her death continues. The Marshfield native was majoring in medical microbiology and immunology and planned to attend medical school. She was awarded her UW-Madison degree posthumously in 2008.
Aunt Kim Heeg, serving as family spokesperson, thanks the Madison community for its support during the past year, but stresses that it is difficult to cope with such an enormous loss.
"'It will get better with time.' ... We have heard this statement frequently over the past year," she says. "The truth is that the heartache we feel today is even worse than that of a year ago. The realization that never again will we hear Brittany's contagious laugh, see her infectious smile or feel her arms around us in a hug is more than words can express.
"We all lost so much a year ago. The world lost a beautiful young woman with so much to offer. We, her family, lost a part of our hearts that will never be filled and feel a physical pain in our bodies each and every day. Brittany loved life and she loved her family; we will spend every minute of every day loving her and missing her amazing presence."
Those wishing to do something positive on the anniversary of Zimmermann's death have the opportunity to help financially challenged students earn college degrees.
Contributions to the "Dollars for Brittany" fund can be sent to the Brittany Zimmermann Memorial Fund, Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union, P.O. Box 279, Marshfield, WI 54449.
"We continue to be grateful for the community support we have received and proudly announce that the first-ever Brittany Zimmermann Memorial Scholarship will be awarded this spring," Heeg says.
In addition to scholarship money, Zimmermann's family has established a private reward fund. It currently stands at $15,000. Anyone with tips or information should call Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014. Callers can remain anonymous. Crime Stoppers also has a separate reward fund of up to $1,000.
Out of the horror of her loss, Berquam says that a renewed emphasis and focus on campus safety has developed on campus during the past year. For more information, visit http://www.safeu.wisc.edu or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATED Wednesday, March 25, 2009 --- 3:30 p.m.
From the City of Madison Police Department:
The one-year anniversary of the murder of Brittany Sue Zimmermann-April 2, 2008- will soon be upon the Madison community. Chief Noble Wray believes it is important, at this juncture, to let the public know, generally where the investigation into Brittany's homicide stands.
An MPD investigative team continues to work this case very hard, and detectives are making progress. The probe has become much more focused, and those assigned to it firmly believe they will find the person, or persons, responsible for Brittany's senseless death.
"We continue to be confident, that with the support of the Zimmermann family, and the community, that the caring professionals of the Madison Police Department (MPD) will solve this tragic crime," said Chief Wray.
The investigative team consists of: a supervising lieutenant, two full-time detectives, two half-time detectives, a part-time crime analyst, a full-time intelligence assessment officer, and other MPD staff members are brought in to work the case as needed. Over the course of this past year, 143 different MPD officers have spent time on the Zimmermann case.
The MPD has also partnered with other law enforcement professionals for additional expertise and assistance. They include:
• Wisconsin Department of Justice, Department of Criminal Investigation
• Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory
• Dane County Coroner's Office
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• University of Wisconsin Police
• Wisconsin State Capitol Police
• Dane County Sheriff's Department
Stranger homicides - where there is no known relationship between victim and suspect- are the toughest to solve. Brittany's is one of those difficult cases, as was Joel Marino's. Finding the Madison businessman's killer in Minnesota required time-intensive police work. Such a deliberative process is ongoing in Brittany's case. Science and best police practices are being brought to bear on the investigation. Thus far, 200 tips, and 2900 pages of reports have been generated. Detectives have come up with over 830 names of individuals worth checking out; over 700 of them have been contacted to date.
Brittany was 21-years old, and a third-year senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, when her life was cut short. Studying in the UW's medical microbiology and immunology department, she planned to get a doctorate in infectious disease. Her dream was to find cures for some of the word's horrible diseases and viruses.
Brittany is survived by her loving family, and her "soul mate" - fiancé Jordan Gonnering.
Brittany's aunt, Kim Heeg, is spokesperson for the family:
'It will get better with time'…. "We have heard this statement frequently over the past year. The truth is that the heartache we feel today is even worse than that of a year ago. The realization that never again will we hear Brittany's contagious laugh, see her infectious smile, or feel her arms around us in a hug is more than words can express. We all lost so much a year ago. The world lost a beautiful young woman with so much to offer. We, her family, lost a part of our hearts that will never be filled and feel a physical pain in our bodies each and every day. Brittany loved life and she loved her family; we will spend every minute of everyday loving her and missing her amazing presence."
To honor Brittany's memory, her family set up a college scholarship program in her hometown of Marshfield. Those wishing to do something positive in Brittany's name - on the anniversary of her death - have the opportunity to help financially challenged young people earn college degrees. Contributions to the "Dollars for Brittany" fund can be sent to: The Brittany Zimmermann Memorial Fund, Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union, P.O. Box 279, Marshfield, WI 54449.
"We continue to be grateful for the community support we have received and proudly announce that the first ever Brittany Zimmermann Memorial Scholarship will be awarded this spring," said Heeg.
In addition to scholarship money, Brittany's family has established a private reward fund. It currently stands at $15,000. Anyone with tips or information should call Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014. Callers can remain anonymous. Crime Stoppers also has a separate reward fund of up to $1,000.
"We would again like to thank the community for their support with the reward fund and we can only pray that it helps lead to an arrest and conviction very soon," said Heeg, adding, "We remain appreciative of the ongoing investigative efforts by the Madison Police Department and remain hopeful that justice will be served."
The thoughts of the men and women of the Madison Police Department are with the Zimmermann and Gonnering families on this anniversary of Brittany's passing.
They will continue to pursue with vigor-justice for all who have been victimized by this crime.
Brittany's parents have asked media to respect their privacy during this difficult and emotional time. They are not doing interviews, or providing additional comments.
UPDATED Wednesday, January 14, 2009 --- 8:00 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The parents and fiance of a slain University of Wisconsin-Madison student are suing Dane County and others, alleging negligence led to her murder last April.
Kevin and Jean Zimmermann, parents of Brittany Zimmermann, and fiance Jordan Gonnering claim County Executive Kathleen Falk was negligent in failing to properly staff and equip the 911 dispatch center.
The lawsuit claims dispatcher Rita Gahagan did not follow proper procedures when she ended a 911 call from the victim, despite sounds of distress.
The lawsuit does not include a monetary demand. But, an earlier claim filed by the Zimmermanns asked for more than $50 million in damages. Gonnering's claim sought $2 million.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATED Tuesday, January 13, 2009 --- 8:45 p.m.
Tonight, the Wisconsin State Journal reports the parents and fiance of Brittany Zimmermann are suing Dane County, County Executive Kathleen Falk and former 911 dispatcher Rita Gahagan. The suit alleges that their negligence led to Zimmermann's murder.
UPDATED Friday, January 9, 2009 --- Noon
***NOTE: NBC15 will not be airing the call on its television news broadcasts, but you can listen to it on NBC15.com. The link is found in this story.***
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Police have released a 911 call made by a University of Wisconsin-Madison student after he found his fiancee stabbed to death in their apartment.
The April 2 call made by Jordan Gonnering was released in response to a judge's order.
Gonnering tells the operator he had just arrived home when he found his door bashed in and his fiancee Brittany Zimmermann shot.
Police say Gonnering was mistaken, and Zimmermann had been repeatedly stabbed by an intruder. They continue to search for her killer.
Officials edited out more than a minute of the five-minute call with a judge's approval because it contained descriptions of the crime scene critical to the investigation.
The call was released in response to a lawsuit by news organizations seeking information about the case.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATED Friday, January 9, 2009 --- 11:00 a.m.
Today, authorities released the 911 call from Brittany Zimmermann's fiance Jordan Gonnering. NBC15 will not be airing the call on its television news broadcasts, but you can listen to it on NBC15.com. The link is found in this story.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, officials have edited out about 68 seconds of the five-minute recording.
Brittany Zimmermann was killed inside her West Doty Street apartment on April 2, 2008.
As NBC15 News has reported in the past, Gonnering thought Zimmermann had been shot, even though she had been stabbed. Police said there were signs of forced entry. The killer remains at large.
Gonnering's attorney didn't want the 911 call released, believing it would traumatize Zimmermann's family and others.
UPDATED Tuesday, January 6, 2009 --- 8:45 a.m.
From the Wisconsin State Journal:
The union that represents the former Dane County 911 employee who answered the call from slain UW-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone is challenging her three-day suspension.
UPDATED Friday, December 26, 2008 --- 6:45 p.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A former Dane County emergency dispatcher has been suspended over apparent confusion stemming from a slain college coed's 911 call.
Controversy over the call University of Wisconsin-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann made April 2nd before she was killed in her apartment has lingered for months. The dispatcher, Rita Gahagan, has said she didn't hear a scream or sounds of a struggle on the call and didn't call the number back or send police to investigate.
Gahagan had asked to transfer out of the 911 center before Zimmermann was killed. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk's chief of staff Topf Wells said Friday that Gahagan will be suspended for three days in her current job as a child support clerk.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
UPDATED Friday, December 26, 2008 --- 4:45 p.m.
The 9-1-1 operator at the center of a botched call the day Brittany Zimmermann was murdered has been suspended.
A spokesperson for County Executive Kathleen Falk tells NBC15 News that Rita Gahagan will be suspended for three days without pay from her current job in another county department.
During an internal investigation into the mishandling of Zimmermann's call, Gahagan said screams heard on Zimmermann's call didn't register as screams.
UPDATED Saturday, December 6, 2008 --- 9:15 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An internal investigation found that the 911 call from a University of Wisconsin-Madison student when she was being killed in April lasted 57 seconds, but the operator wasn't able to hear "sounds possibly indicating an emergency."
Records show the 911 operator did not call back to the number to determine if there was an emergency, and no officers were dispatched to the area where the cell phone call originated until 48 minutes later, after a roommate found 21-year-old Brittany Zimmermann dead.
The stabbing death of the UW-Madison student from Marshfield remains unsolved.
Dane County 911 center officials said in their May 6 report that the operator could not hear screams and sounds of a struggle. A police detective is quoted in a search warrant document as saying the 911 call had those sounds.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
UPDATE Posted Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 -- 4:50 pm
By Zac Schultz
Madison: Madison's Police Chief says it's still too early to determine the impact from the release of key details in the Brittany Zimmermann murder case.
Chief Noble Wray got an unpleasant surprise Monday when he was told seven search warrants in the Brittany Zimmermann murder case had been made public. "Clearly, we did not want those warrants unsealed, make no mistake about it."
Madison Police and the District Attorney's office are sharing the blame for not getting a judge to renew a seal on the warrants. "The mistake and the oversight is clear. We owned it, we did it, it's clear. It was our responsibility," says Wray.
Chief Wray says detectives spent Monday and Tuesday looking at the evidence in the search warrants, trying to assess what their release would mean.
Wray says the short answer is they don't know. "It was very difficult to quanitfy how bits and pieces of information will have an impact on a case."
But they don't think it will prevent them from finding the killer. "They do not believe that this case is jeopardized."
The search warrants reveal the exact cause of Brittany Zimmermann's death- she was beaten, strangled and stabbed to death with a short knife.
We also have a description of her 911 call right before her murder. A detective says you can hear a scream, then the sounds of a struggle.
The 911 operator failed to dispatch police and Zimmermann wasn't found for another 50 minutes, when her fiance found her body.
But Chief Wray says he still won't release the audio of the call, saying there is still some evidence in this case that needs to remain secret. "Clearly, there is significant investigative information, significant evidence contained within that tape that still has value from an investigative standpoint both by content and context."
Chief Wray says detectives are still making significant progress in the case. He described it as a funnel with investigators getting closer to the middle, and the killer.
UPDATED Tuesday, December 2, 2008 --- 4:30 p.m.
Report from NBC15's Zac Schultz and Dana Brueck:
At 11:30 in the morning on April 2nd, Brittany Zimmermann spoke to her fiance on her cell phone.
Less than an hour later she was dead.
Newly unsealed search warrants show that Zimmermann made her desperate call to 911 at 12:20 p.m.
According to a search warrant, "The disconnect started with the sound of a woman screaming and the line remains active and open, picking up the background sound of a struggle for a short period of time."
Last spring we learned the 911 operator who took the call failed by not dispatching police... and failed again by calling back the wrong number.
Police weren't notified about Brittany's murder until 1:08 p.m., when her fiance Jordan Gonnering came home and found her body.
He told detectives, "She was cold, her fingers were stiff," and there was blood on her face.
Gonnering originally though Zimmermann had been shot, but the search warrants reveal she was actually beaten, strangled and stabbed multiple times-with half of the stabs penetrating her heart.
A coroner's report indicates the knife used to kill Brittany was between 2 and 5 inches long.
Detectives believe the killer kicked in the security door on the apartment, but did not have to force entry into Zimmermann's apartment.
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Dane County Court, Zimmerman's parents said Brittany was killed in her bedroom.
Police recovered bloody slippers and computer paper with blood drops. They also took hair, 18 blood samples, 9 partial footwear prints, 10 fingerprints and 23 swabs for DNA.
The only mention of Zimmermann's cell phone is that police found cell phone parts.
The State Crime Lab did isolate unknown DNA on Zimmermann's body.
They also took DNA samples from three different homeless suspects. At one point Anthony Cosgove told police they might find his DNA or footprints at the crime scene, because he liked to diagram crime scenes.
Jeffrey Ball was arrested the night of Zimmermann's murder just a few blocks away. He was in a woman's bathroom in an apartment complex and threatened officers. He had a knife with blood on it, and a history of violence.
Chauncey Mack allegedly confessed to the crime to a group of men two days after the crime. Another man heard Mack says he went to rob the place, found Brittany, and stabbed her 8 to 12 times.
None of the men have been charged with a crime, and the District Attorney says he doesn't believe any of the men are still suspects.
Meanwhile, the call from Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone could be released. Dane County's District Attorney says he's working with police to make a recommendation on the issue to the 911 center.
The DA says the documents detailing the 911 call and other evidence became public due to an oversight. The DA says it is up to his office and police to request, through a judge, that the records remain sealed for a given period of time, but that never happened last week. A judge, however, still could've denied the motion. Still, Dane County's prosecutor says he has some regrets about how the situation unfolded.
Brittany Zimmermann's mother says the family begged to hear the 911 call from her daughter's cell phone, made the day she was killed in her apartment on Doty Street.
Jean Zimmermann says she knew very little about the call or about her daughter's final moments.
Instead, Dane County DA Brian Blanchard says the family learned details from a newspaper reporter.
He says the records would've become unsealed eventually but investigators would've let the family know ahead of time.
Madison Police say, through a statement, investigators would've preferred the warrants remain sealed.
Back in May, then-director of the 911 center Joe Norwick answered questions about the mishandled call.
Earlier this year: "The dispatcher answered this call and inquired several times to determine whether an emergency existed on the other end of the phone and received no answer to the inquiries."
Norwick has since resigned from the position and the County Executive has since apologized and worked to implement changes.
Earlier this year: "I concluded that an apology was appropriate for the errors committed in our 911 center."
The DA says he met Tuesday morning with Madison Police to determine whether they think the 911 call itself can be released, or whether parts of it should be kept private to avoid jeopardizing the investigation. He says they will make a recommendation, but it's up to the 911 center to release the call.
UPDATED Tuesday, December 2, 2008 --- 4:15 p.m.
Statement from Madison Police Department:
There has been great media interest in the recent release of search warrant documents pertaining to the Brittany Zimmermann case. The public airing of these formerly sealed documents was not sought by the Madison Police Department, and it would have been preferable - from an investigative standpoint - that they would have remained sealed.
The failure to seek additional extensions for a seal was an oversight by the Madison Police Department and the Dane County District Attorney’s Office.
That said, much of the information contained in the documents is dated, and the investigation has advanced since they were filed last spring. Detectives remain focused, and are making progress in tracking down Brittany’s killer/killers. Although it is hard to quantify what impact there might be from the release of any particular piece of information, detectives don’t believe the unsealing of these search warrant affidavits will jeopardize their case.
The details contained in it are difficult, sad, and troubling. It is important we not lose track of the significant impact their release is having on Brittany’s family and friends. It’s equally important that we continue to focus on who has been lost.
Brittany was a young UW-Madison student filled with hope and promise. She had dreams of earning a medical degree and helping humanity. She had a close family, a fiancé, and friends all of whom loved her very much.
This department remains as committed to solving this case today as it was on the day of Brittany’s death, and the public’s continued patience is appreciated as resolving stranger homicides is often time intensive.
There currently is a private reward fund of $14,000 being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Brittany’s death.
There is also up to $1,000 in Crime Stoppers’ money available in this case.
Anyone with information is urged to call Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014.
UPDATED Tuesday, December 2, 2008 --- 2:35 p.m.
Statement from the Dane County Public Safety Communications:
Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Zimmermann’s family during this most difficult time.
An investigation done in May by the 911 Center found no evidence the dispatcher who took a call from Ms. Zimmerman’s cell phone heard anything that indicated an emergency was occurring. The 911 Center checked a number of factors that might have affected the dispatcher’s performance. The dispatcher wasn’t distracted by other matters at the time of the call. The equipment the dispatcher was using was functioning properly and given the dispatcher’s handling of numerous other calls that day, the individual’s hearing ability was not believed to be a factor. The dispatcher was not working overtime and there was a full complement of staff on duty in the Center at the time of the call. The dispatcher was a nearly 20-year veteran of the Public Safety Communications Center.
I anticipate disciplinary proceedings in association with the dispatcher involved with this call will be complete this month. The dispatcher hasn’t been employed at the 911 Center since April 13, 2008.
While it is impossible to eliminate all chances for human error, steps have been taken in recent months to minimize opportunities for error. For example, this summer, the Center Board, working on a directive from the County Executive to former 911 Center Director Norwick, revised policy, requiring police be dispatched to 911 calls originating from cell phones in which it can’t be determined whether an emergency exists on the other end of the phone.
The 911 Center has and will continue to provide its full assistance to the Madison Police Department and prosecutors in their ongoing efforts to apprehend and eventually prosecute the killer(s) who committed this murder.
UPDATED Tuesday, December 2, 2008 --- 1:15 p.m.
STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF THE DANE COUNTY CORPORATION COUNSEL
Madison police investigators and the District Attorney are reviewing whether release of the audio recording of a 911 call from Ms. Zimmerman’s cell phone would harm the police department’s ongoing murder investigation.
The tape has not been previously released because police and prosecutors are concerned that information contained on it may jeopardize their apprehending and prosecuting a murderer.
Consequently, the County is not able to comment further on this matter at this time. Further inquiries can also be directed to the Madison Police Department and/or the Dane County District Attorney’s Office.
UPDATED Tuesday, December 2, 2008 --- 1:00 p.m.
NBC15's Zac Schultz examined the court documents this morning. Watch for his report on NBC15 News at 4:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m.
From the Wisconsin State Journal:
Newly uncovered court documents reveal:
- Screaming and a struggle could be heard during a 911 call made from Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone before she was found dead.
- 48-minutes elapsed from the time of the mishandled 911 cellphone call until the time police were sent to Zimmermann's apartment.
- Zimmermann had been stabbed in the heart repeatedly, beaten and strangled.
- Police did not find a weapon at the scene.
- Valuables were left behind in her apartment, calling into question whether robbery could be a motive.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Search warrants show that a college student slain in her off-campus Madison apartment was lifeless and cold when her roommate found her, but she had called 911 about 50 minutes earlier -- only to have the call mishandled.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported on its Web site on the contents of the long-sealed search warrants it obtained Monday in the unsolved murder of 21-year-old Brittany Zimmermann.
The University of Wisconsin student from Marshfield was found dead on the apartment floor April 2 by roommate Jordan Gonnering.
Authorities have said the 911 call from Zimmermann's cell phone was made around the time she was attacked, but a dispatcher lost contact, didn't call back and didn't send police to investigate.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATE Posted Thursday, May 15 --- 5:30pm
The following is a memo sent to the Dane County Board of Supervisors, from Scott McDonell, Chairman:
"I want to let you all know about the next meeting I am scheduling in order to move forward with our review of the performance of the public safety communications center.
I plan to hold a meeting of the Executive Committee, open to all supervisors and the public, on June 4th at 6:00pm in Room 201. I anticipate that we will approve an independent audit of our 911 center at that meeting in order to review their performance with fresh eyes. Public testimony would also be taken at this meeting, as was done at the joint committee meeting on May 8th. As a reminder, we have had two opportunities for public comment to date: the May 8th joint meeting of Public Protection and Judiciary and the May 12th Personnel and Finance Committee.
We are working with the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International, the professional association for public safety communications, to bring one of their staff here for the meeting to describe their Member Assistance Advisory Program. This program provides peer reviews of the operations of public safety communications centers, and has been used by a number of counties and municipalities to assess the performance of the 911 centers. We have also invited staff from the Waukesha County 911 Center, who had a review performed by APCO, to discuss their experience.
UPDATE Posted Wednesday, May 14 --- 11:50am
Press Release from Eileen Bruskewitz and Jack Martz:
Members of the Dane County Board will hold a public hearing this Monday, May 19th, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Fitchburg Community Center, 5510 Lacy Road, (Lower Level) to hear public testimony relating to issues facing Dane County’s 911 system and center.
Members of the public are welcome to attend and testify at the hearing.
Dane County 911 Director Joe Norwick, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Sheriff David Mahoney and Madison Police Chief Noble Wray have been invited to speak at the hearing and answer any questions as their time would allow.
Dane County Supervisors Ronn Ferrell (District 15) Eileen Bruskewitz (District 25) and Jack Martz (District 33) will co-chair the meeting. Time for speakers will be allotted based on an estimate of the likely number of speakers at the hearing so everyone has an opportunity to have their views considered.
“We feel is important for the public to hear the available facts regarding the 911 Center, it’s mission and staffing, as well as giving citizens their first opportunity to give us input regarding 911 in Dane County.”
The supervisors ask the public to bring any questions they may have about the 911 system. In addition, this hearing is an opportunity to let members of the 85 user groups of the 911 system tell the public about their interactions, both positive and negative, with the 911 Call Center.
The focus of the hearing will be the 911 Center’s performance and its future, and not on the specifics of the Brittany Zimmerman case that is still an active police investigation. If time does not allow all questions to be answered, the public will have the opportunity to give their questions to Supervisors so they may be asked at future meetings held by the County Board and various committees.
We are holding this hearing to allow the public to begin the process of regaining the trust it must have in our 911 system. We also hope to help educate the public about the 911 system so we’ll have the most effective one possible. The people of Dane County deserve nothing less.
UPDATED Friday, May 9 --- 9:45pm
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz toured 911 center tonight following a mishandled call from murder victim Brittany Zimmermann.
The tour was actually planned before the recent murders of Joel Marino and Brittany Zimmerman. The city's 20-year contract with the 911 center is up in July.
The mayor says he wants to get a better understanding of how the center works. "Specifics of how calls are handled, calls coming from cell phones," says Mayor Cieslewicz. "Of course, how those calls are handled both when we're able to make contact with and when there isn't sufficient information, how those are handled, how those are logged, how the operators can juggle those calls."
The Dane County 911 Center Director testified before the county board Thursday night.
Joe Norwick apologized to Zimmermann's family about the mistakes made the day the U-W student was killed in her Doty Street home. A dispatcher did not call Zimmermann's cell phone back after it disconnected, instead providing a call-back to a hang-up call.
County Board Chairman Scott McDonell: "Is this common to have multiple errors like this or is it uncommon?"
Norwick: "I don't think it's a frequent occurrence, I think people are human. People make mistakes. people in a very stressful job make mistakes."
Norwick says he can't guarantee that no mistakes will be made, but is working to limit the opportunities for mistakes.
Changes are already in the works to improve communication between different agencies in Dane County. NBC15 News has learned 30 million dollars will go toward replacing 911 computers and other equipment.
Meantime, County Board Chairman Scott McDonell says the board wants to bring in an outside source to review policies and procedures at the 911 center and make improvements.
"It seems the policies are solid, it's whether they are being followed or not. That's really a concern especially for someone like me who lives downtown, right in the middle of basically unsolved murders" said McDonell.
Board supervisors are also concerned about whether the 911 center followed a strategic plan from 2004. The report recommended increasing staffing, changing procedures and creating a stronger oversight board.
UPDATE Posted Thursday, May 8 -- 5:00pm
At 5:30 Thursday night, the director of Dane County's 911 center will be in the hot seat, trying to explain the botched 911 call from Brittany Zimmermann the day she was murdered.
Today, NBC 15s Carleen Wild learned:
- City and county officials are concerned too much information is being said in this case.
- The District Attorney, Chief of Police, two police captains and a detective working on the case walked together into the County Executive's office.
- They are very concerned about the statement the union steward has made about what is or isn't on the 911 tape, and essentially asked that nothing else be said by anyone - in regard to the call or what may be on the tape.
- There is concern that too much information if being released and will jeopardize not only the investigation, but also a possible genuine confession.
NBC 15s Carleen Wild also confirmed the following changes coming to Dane County 911:
- 30 million dollars has been authorized to spend to replace all 911 computers, radio towers, equipment and other technology that supports the 911 call center.
- The new software will better bridge what have been communication gaps between the 60 plus emergency response teams, meaning the different community police, fire and other agencies within Dane County, that have to interact when there is an emergency.
Stay with NBC 15 and www.nbc15.com for continuing coverage of this developing story.
UPDATE Posted Thursday, May 8 --- 8:05am
Today, Dane County 911 officials will brief Dane County Board members on the 911 investigation.
It takes place at 5:30pm at the City-County Building (210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Room 201).
The meeting is open to the public, but board members may go into closed session to discuss any personnel-related issues.
NBC15 News will have live reports from this meeting on NBC15 News at 5pm and 6pm, and a full report on NBC15.com and NBC15 News at 10pm.
UPDATE Posted Wednesday, May 7 -- 1:50 pm
Madison: Madison Police are saying today the 911 center's mistake did not derail or jeopardize the Zimmermann murder investigation.
Tuesday NBC 15 News reported the 911 center sent detectives down the wrong path initially, by saying a dispatcher had called back Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone and two men had answered and said there was no emergency.
In fact, the dispatcher never did call Zimmermann's cell phone, instead the two men were from a 911 hang up in the Town of Middleton.
But it took 13 days for the 911 center to catch the mistake. By then, police had "focused some investigative efforts on that callback and the two males".
Wednesday, a spokesman says they were investigating many leads early in the case and the two men were not the main focus of detectives, and this mistake did not "derail" the investigation.
The dispatcher that messed up the call has transferred to another job but could still face discipline.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk says she has no plans to discipline or fire Joe Norwick, the 911 center director.
But that doesn't mean she didn't have plenty of criticism for his performance in the last few days.
Joe Norwick has faced a lot of media pressure since last Thursday, when it was revealed one of his 911 center dispatchers failed to send police to help Brittany Zimmermann the day she was murdered.
At the time Norwick was brusque and unapologetic. "I don't think there's anything to apologize for at this time," he said.
Since then Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has apologized for him. "I concluded that an apology was appropriate for the errors committed in our 911 center."
But it wasn't just his tone that brought criticism. Thursday, Norwick was asked if the dispatcher was still working in the 911 center.
Norwick said she had worked in the center after the screw up. But it was later revealed the dispatcher requested and received a transfer and is now in a different county department.
Falk was asked why Norwick mislead reporters. "He believes, when I asked him the same question, that he technically and honestly answered the questions he was asked. I said, 'Joe, while I understand you answered the questions technically accurate. The impression left by everyone in that room was different."
County Board Chairman Scott McDonell had similar worries. "It does concern me. I think that will be one of the issues we raise Thursday." Thursday is when Norwick will testify before county board supervisors.
McDonell says in private they've been getting better answers. "I know he has a long distinguished record. I just think the media part of it is not his strong suit, and it's unfortunate."
Despite all this Falk says Norwick won't be disciplined. "I have not agreed with a number of the statements...that Director Norwick has said in the last several days. But I have confidence in his ability to lead our 911 center."
Falk has called for an external investigation of the mistake. That will be conducted by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.
UPDATE Posted Wednesday, May 7 --- 9:00am
Just a clarification from the Middleton Police Department:
Recent news reports related to the Brittany Zimmermann case indicated that a landline 911 hang-up call that center personnel handled during the time period that is the focus of the investigation originated in "Middleton."
We would like to clarify that the call originated in the "Town of Middleton" not in the City of Middleton. Landline 911 calls originating in the City of Middleton are directed to the City of Middleton Communications Center, not the Dane County Communications Center.
UPDATE Posted Wednesday, May 7 -- 1:25 pm
By Zac Schultz
Madison: It appears the 911 Center made two crucial errors the day Brittany Zimmermann was murdered.
The first error prevented Zimmermann from getting police help immediately. The second error-just revealed Tuesday- ended up sending detectives down the wrong path for nearly two weeks.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk presented new information at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Falk says the month-long internal investigation was completed Tuesday. She ran through it with the District Attorney and Madison Police to find out what details could be released without compromising the investigation.
Here's the background: On April 2nd, Brittany Zimmermann called 911 from her Doty St. apartment. The 911 dispatcher made three inquiries, heard nothing and then the call was ended. (Previously 911 Center Director Joe Norwick said the dispatcher hung up on Zimmermann, but now they say it is unclear, and they can only say the call ended.) The dispatcher moved on to a 911 hang up call.
According to policy, she should have called back Zimmermann's cell phone. Instead she called back the second hang up call and spoke to two men who said there was no emergency. She never called Zimmermann back. That was her first mistake.
The second mistake came when the 911 center later told police that the two men answered Zimmermann's cell phone.
911 didn't learn for 13 days that the men were from the second call and not related to the murder. But all the while detectives had been focused on finding these two men who where ultimately never connected to the murder.
The dispatcher said she heard nothing on Zimmermann's call, but police have said there were noises on the call that should have resulted in police being dispatched.
The next point of contention is where police would have been sent. Last week Joe Norwick said cell phone GPS technology was unreliable, and could have sent police miles away. The internal investigation shows police would have been sent to a building right next to Brittany Zimmermann's apartment, and the dispatcher could have used the cell phone provider to look up Zimmermann's real address within five minutes.
Chief of Police Noble Wray said last Thursday it was too soon to know if sending police would have saved Brittany's life, but Falk says no way. "From what I know, I do not believe Brittany Zimmermann's death could have been prevented."
Falk has now called for an external investigation by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.
She also wants the 911 center's oversight board to examine their policies.
The dispatcher has requested and received a transfer to another county department. She could still face discipline.
UPDATE Posted Tuesday, May 6 --- 4:45pm
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Dane County's top official says a better response to a 911 call from a college student before she was murdered still could not have saved her life.
County Executive Kathleen Falk apologized at a news conference for numerous errors employees made responding to the April 2 call from Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone.
But she says she does not believe the University of Wisconsin-Madison student's murder could have been prevented.
Falk says a county dispatcher inquired three times about whether an emergency existed but heard nothing before the call ended. She then failed to call the number back as required under department policy.
Falk says the call does contain sounds that have significance but they were not heard by the dispatcher.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
UPDATE Posted Tuesday, May 6 --- 4:10pm
The Press Conference by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is still underway.
However, she has already released several recommendations that she has made to the Director of the 911 Center:
- She requests that 911 administrators review current training and personnel qualifications.
- When an issue occurs about the sequence of several incoming phone calls in a short amount of time, 911 (administrators) should review as soon as possible all three sets of available records.
- With respect to the adequacy of existing technology, there is no fool proof ability to pinpoint where a cell phone call is originating. For land line phones, technology allows for accurate determination of the caller. With cell phone callers, the technology allows a location to be identified that may often be fairly precise but can on occasion range anywhere within a few miles of the actual caller.
- "Many people want a third party objective review of this situation and the overall performance of the 911 system. I think your report has identified the key concerns a review should consider. Please, as soon as possible, contact the Association of Public Safety Communication official (the national organization which sets the standards for 911 operations) and ask it to review this situation and the general performance of the 911 center."
UPDATE Posted Tuesday, May 6 --- 2:10pm
Dane County Board Chair Scott McDonell Issued this Press Release today. (Many of these items were reported Monday, by NBC15 News)
McDonell announced several steps the County Board will be taking to follow-up on the 911 Center’s involvement in the Brittany Zimmermann case:
• There will be a joint meeting of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee and the Personnel and Finance Committee at 5:30 p.m. in Room 201 of the City County Building this Thursday, May 8th, 2008.
Emergency Communications Center staff will provide details of their investigation to the committees, and be available to respond to questions from county board supervisors. All county board supervisors are allowed to attend.
Parts of the meeting may be conducted in closed session, if necessary, in order to allow discussion of specific personnel or disciplinary issues or issues related to potential litigation.. All supervisors are allowed to remain in the room but may not divulge any information shared in closed session.
Madison City Channel, which is available on many cable TV systems throughout the county, has indicated they will carry the meeting live, and it will also be streamed live on the Internet at www.mcc12.tv.
• The County’s internal investigation of the 911 call from Ms. Zimmermann’s cell phone requested by the Madison Police Department will be completed in the next few days, and will be made available as soon as possible.
• County Board staff will review a study that was completed in 2004 by MTG Management Consultants, a Seattle, Washington consultant, to determine if recommendations have been implemented and whether the county needs to bring in an additional experts to review current operations. The Executive Committee will consider whether further audit attention in needed in coming weeks.
“Everyone in county government regrets the outcome of Brittany Zimmermann’s phone call to the 911 Center, and we are taking immediate steps to ensure there will not be a repeat of this occurrence,” said McDonell. “The County Board will get a report from Emergency Communications Center director Joe Norwick Thursday night, and then we will review the findings of the internal investigation and the MTG study that was completed in 2004. We will then determine whether additional county board action is necessary.”
McDonell also assured Dane County residents that they should continue to have confidence that their calls to the 911 Center will result in the assistance they need. The Center handles approximately 442 calls per day - over 161,000 calls in 2007 - with great accuracy. “Our citizens rely on the fact that when they call 911 for help, the call will result in emergency assistance being dispatched within minutes,” McDonell noted. “They should continue to have confidence in the public safety communication system.”
The Brittany Zimmermann murder has brought to light the limitations of cell phone technology for pinpointing the location of a caller in an emergency. It is important that the public be aware of how to place a 911 call in general, as well as understand that calling 911 from a cell phone is not like calling from a landline. If possible, it is best to use a landline when calling the 911 Center because the address of the call can be precisely located. However, many now depend on cell phones and, in some cases, the location of these calls cannot be exactly pinpointed with the current 911 technology.
“It is critical that people know what to do if calling for help,” McDonell said. Specifically:
• When calling 911, a caller will be asked for the address of the emergency, a call-back number, his or her name, and a description of what happened.
• If calling from a cell phone, the 911 Center has offered these guidelines - Assume the person taking the 911 call does not know your location and be prepared to work with them to determine the most accurate location where help is needed. Be prepared to give your cell phone number or some other way of re-contacting you. If the call is disconnected or if you are otherwise uncertain you’ve secured help, call 911 again.
• Call 911 if you need a assistance, but do not program it as a speed dial number. This will cut down on the number of calls made to the 911 Center in error.
Additional information regarding the ongoing investigation into the Brittany Zimmermann case will be posted on the county’s website (www.countyofdane.com), and will be updated as new information becomes available.
UPDATE POSTED: Monday, May 5 -- 9:30pm
REPORTER: Brock Bergey
Dane County's top leader says it's time to apologize to the Brittany Zimmermann family.
Kathleen Falk says she's sending letters to the murdered college student's family and fiance.
She's not making the letters public at this time. However, she tells NBC 15 they will express -- "heart-felt compassion".
Falk says the 9-1-1 center made a mistake the day of Brittany Zimmermann's murder.
Last week, we learned a county dispatcher received a call, from Zimmermann's cell phone, on April 2nd, the same day the 21-year-old was found murdered in her Doty Street home.
Records show the dispatcher eventually hung up on the call and failed to place a call back, as is protocol.
On Thursday, when the news broke, 9-1-1 director, Joe Norwick said, then, no apology was needed.
However, Falk says the county is ready to take some responsibility.
"The 9-1-1 director has just completed the first phase of his investigation," she says. "And, now, based on what I know, I think we need to apologize to the Zimmermann family and Brittany's fiance, so I have drafted apology letters."
Falk says the letters will be delivered, soon, through the district attorney's office.
In addition to the apologies, Falk tells NBC 15 she will announce directives to the 9-1-1 director and staff, on Tuesday, to ensure something like this doesn't happen again.
She wouldn't elaborate any further on what those directives might be.
UPDATE Posted Monday, May 5 --- 4:35pm
By Zac Schultz
Madison: The 911 Center Director will testify in front of the County Board this Thursday
At issue; why a dispatcher hung up on Brittany Zimmermann's 911 call the day she was murdered.
Jack Martz has been a County Board Supervisor for six years.
He says he was blindsided last Thursday when he learned about Brittany Zimmermann's dropped 911 call. "I was totally surprised and quite frankly, flabbergasted."
That's why Martz and five other Supervisors wrote a letter asking for a special meeting so they could question Joe Norwick-the 911 Center Director. "I'm really interested in getting down to solving the problem. Getting the community back to feeling confident that if they call 911 something will happen," says Martz.
"The system has failed, and we have to find out why and what we're going to do to fix it," says Supervisor Dave Wiganowsky. He wants more than a hearing. "We want an external investigation in the department-or at least I do-to find out what went wrong."
Madison Police asked for an internal investigation April 2nd, the day Zimmermann was murdered. That was when they learned a dispatcher had hung up on Zimmermann's 911 call and ignored policy by not calling back.
Norwick met with the County Executive and the Board Chairman this afternoon, but he would not speak with media.
Board Chairman Scott McDonell says they asked about the investigation. "It's not quite complete, but it should be complete soon."
McDonell says they learned the dispatcher has changed jobs. "My understanding was that she requested a transfer. Given the circumstances that's not unreasonable."
The supervisors want to know what's taking so long. "I don't want to say that a month isn't long enough, but it sure appears to me that we should have had some answers," says Wiganowsky.
"If you haven't uncovered at least some of the issues that caused this problem in a month, then I'm wondering where you're looking," says Martz.
Thursday's County Board meeting with the 911 Center Director will take place at 5:30. McDonell says he's not sure if that internal investigation will be complete by then.
UPDATE Posted Monday, May 5 --- 3:45pm
From NBC15's Zac Schultz:
NBC15 News has learned the internal investigation into the botched 911 call made by Brittany Zimmermann is nearly complete. Also today, one County Board Supervisor is calling for an external investigation.
It's been more than a month since a 911 dispatcher hung up on Brittany Zimmermann the day she was murdered in her Doty Street apartment.
Madison Police asked for an investigation at the beginning of April, and now the Chairman of the County Board says he hopes the investigation will be wrapped up this week.
Last Thursday Joe Norwick, the 911 Center Director, admitted a dispatcher hung up on Zimmermann's cell phone because she didn't hear anything, and the dispatcher ignored policy and failed to call the cell phone back.
Now Dave Wiganowsky, Dane County Board Supervisor, wants an external investigation into the whole matter.
Wiganowsky says: "The problem happened, but my concern is how we're going to fix it. We're a month out right now. They can still keep the investigation going, but what we need to know is do we need to put help on more right now? Do we need to do it right away? Is this going to happen again?"
Earlier today, six members of the board demanded the chairman call a special meeting so they can get some answers. Late this afternoon, the chairman announced that this Thursday at 5:30pm, the 911 center director will testify before the board.
UPDATE Posted Saturday, May 3 -- 8:00am
The Wisconsin State Journal is reporting that the 911 dispatcher who mishandled a call from Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone the day of her murder has been transferred to another Dane County Job.
According to the Journal, officials confirmed the dispatcher was transferred soon after the day of the murder, even though 911 center director Joe Norwick said they remained on the job Thursday.
UPDATE Posted Friday, May 2 --- 5:35pm
From The Associated Press:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Dane County's chief executive says authorities mishandled a 911 call from the cell phone of a college student but she has confidence in her 911 chief.
County Executive Kathleen Falk says "the system didn't work like it should" when a dispatcher received the call from Brittany Zimmermann's phone on April 2.
The dispatcher eventually hung up on the caller, failed to call the number back and never sent a police officer to investigate. Zimmermann was found murdered in her apartment shortly after.
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray says the 911 call contained evidence that should have triggered a dispatch but county authorities have described it as a routine "hang-up" call.
Falk praised Joseph Norwick, director of the county's 911 center, as a skilled law enforcement official.
UPDATE Posted Thursday, May 1 --- 8:53pm
"It just gets to the point where you're kind of numb you know? It's like it hurts but what can you do?" says Zimmermann's best friend, Jenna Krasselt.
Krasselt would have been her future sister in law. She wants to keep her memory alive and reminisces about the friend she once had.
"She is a person you know, keep her dreams and her hopes I mean all the good she would have done for this world."
Jenna Krasselt knew Brittany best and still finds her tragic death hard to believe.
"A month ago I was one of those people you know? It's like you read about people something tragic has happened to. You've seen it on the news obviously and it's just like until it happens to you it's just one of those people you know?"
Together with the help of several of Brittany's friends a scholarship fundraiser has been setup to keep Brittany's name alive while benefitting the life of someone else. Those who knew her feel that it's least they can do for a girl who touched their life.
"She's my best friend you know? In a time like this it's like I wish I could do more for her."
If you'd like to contribute you can send a check or money order to
Marshfield medical Center CU
Attn: Dollars For Brittany
302 West Upham St.
Marshfield, WI 54449
UPDATE Posted Thursday, May 1 --- 6:00pm
Madison: The UW student murdered in her apartment last month called 911, but the dispatcher never sent police.
The dispatcher actually hung up on Brittany Zimmermann because they didn't hear anybody on the other end of the line.
Brittany Zimmermann's body was found by her boyfriend around 1 pm on April 2nd in their Doty St. apartment. Police have released few details surrounding her murder but Thursday they confirmed a 911 call was placed from Zimmermann's cell phone the day she was killed. "It would be accurate to state that there is evidence contained in the call which should have resulted in a Madison Police Officer being dispatched," says Police Chief Noble Wray.
But an officer was never sent. Police aren't releasing details like when the call was made, how long it lasted, or even whether anything could be heard.
Joe Norwick is the Director of the 911 Communications Center. "The dispatcher answered this call and inquired several times to determine whether an emergency existed on the other end of the phone, and received no answer to the inquiries."
Norwick says the dispatcher actually hung up on Zimmermann, because there were two other 911 calls waiting. Norwick says the dispatcher was ok to hang up but they should have called back. "Under current policy, if dispatchers a 911 call and either don't hear a voice on the other end of the call or unable to determine if there is an emergency the dispatcher calls the number back."
But even if the dispatcher had called back, police would not have been sent, because Zimmermann called from a cell phone. Only calls from a landline get an automatic police visit, because 911 technology still can't give an exact location for a cell phone. "The accuracy of determining the origin of cell phone calls may range from within a city block to several miles."
Police Chief Noble Wray says the callback doesn't matter, the first call should have been enough. "There was evidence from the call that an officer should have been sent."
Norwick won't identify the dispatcher, only saying they are a competent veteran with a good record. "And of course that person feels very concerned over what happened."
Despite the fact police had to notify the 911 center about the dropped call Norwick is not ready to apologize, either to the Zimmermann family or the public.
Chief Wray says he asked Norwick to conduct an internal investigation a month ago. Norwick says that investigation is still ongoing and the dispatcher has not been reprimanded.
UPDATE Posted Thursday, May 1 --- 2:50pm
Official Press Release from Madison Police Department:
During the course of the investigation into the murder of Brittany Sue Zimmermann, Madison Police detectives were able to determine a 911 call for service was made from Zimmermann's phone to the Dane County 911 center on April 2nd, 2008. That day the MPD brought this call to the attention of the Dane County 911 Center. Also on this day, Command Staff from MPD requested that the 911 Center not release information pertaining to this call. The request for non-disclosure has been reviewed throughout the investigation and is currently in force.
The MPD investigation also revealed that this was not an accidental 911 call, it was not an intentionally erroneous call, nor was it a hang-up call.
To protect the integrity of the Zimmermann case the exact contents of the open-line 911 call cannot be revealed. It would be accurate to state that there is evidence contained in the call, which should have resulted in a Madison police officer being dispatched. That would have been consistent with both Madison Police Department Policy, and national 911 standards. The 911 center did not call back to the telephone number, MPD was not notified of the call, and no officer was sent.
Shortly after the homicide Madison Police Chief Noble Wray recommended that the Dane County 911 Center conduct an internal investigation into what happened with this 911 call.
The MPD has enjoyed a good working relationship with the Dane County 911 Center, and is committed to continuing that relationship as we look to uphold public trust and confidence in our law enforcement system.
UPDATE Posted Thursday, May 1 --- 2:30pm
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Madison's police chief says an officer should have been dispatched to investigate a 911 call from a college student shortly before she was murdered.
Police Chief Noble Wray says the call from Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone contains evidence and should have been enough for a dispatcher to ask his department to send an officer.
He says the Dane County 911 Center never notified his agency and no officer was sent. He says he's concerned about the way the call was handled and asked for an internal investigation shortly after the April 2 murder of the University of Wisconsin-Madison student.
Zimmermann was murdered in her apartment while she was home alone. Police continue to search for her killer.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.