Charges filed in 2008 killing of UW-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A 53-year-old man has been charged in the killing of Brittany Zimmermann in her Madison home more than a decade ago.

First degree homicide charges have been filed against David A. Kahl (right) in the 2008 killing of Brittany Zimmermann.

According to the Madison Police Department, David A. Kahl has been charged with first degree intentional homicide. Kahl is currently an inmate in the Wisconsin Prison System on unrelated charges and will be transported to Dane Co. at a later date.

The 21-year-old from Marshfield was a University of Wisconsin Madison student studying Medical Microbiology and Immunology when she was stabbed to death on April 2, 2008, in her apartment on the 500 block of Doty Street .

It happened in broad daylight, just blocks away from the police department. She called 911, the call was dropped, and the Dane County dispatcher never called her back.

Her parents have released a statement through the police department saying,

It is with mixed emotions that we write this statement today. First and foremost, we are grateful to the Madison Police Department and the Dane County District Attorney’s Office for not giving up on this investigation. It has been almost 12 years since we lost our beautiful daughter, Brittany, and we could not have gone through this without the love and support of our family and friends. To all of them, we are eternally grateful. Having charges filed is just the beginning of justice for Brittany, which is what we have wanted from the start of this horrible tragedy. Nothing will bring our beautiful daughter back and we continue to feel that pain every day. Therefore, while we have appreciated all the community support throughout the past 12 years, we are respectfully asking for privacy during this difficult time. Thank you

When announcing the arrest, the Madison Police Department had conducted hundreds of interviews and processed countless pieces of evidence trying to find her killer.

"The dedication and persistence of those tasked with investigating this case – past and present – has never wavered," it said.

The police department also noted that the Dane County District Attorney's Office and Wisconsin State Crime Lab played instrumental roles in the investigation.


Detectives say Kahl, who live about a mile from Zimmermann’s apartment, was panhandling for money on April 2, 2008. They said he made a loop, approaching four different people over the course of 50 minutes.

The complaint stated as he walked down Wilson Street, Bedford, and finally Doty Street, asking people for $40. Police say the timeline puts him at Zimmermann’s apartment at the time of her murder.

Detectives say they brought him in for questioning that day, and say he told them he asked people for money to buy crack. The complaint states he admitted to being high that day. Detectives also noticed he had small cuts on his hand.

A few days later, police say Kahl told them he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia a few years prior and was off his medications.

The complaint detailed six different times Kahl was interviewed over the years, citing changes in his story.

In 2008, detectives say an inmate at Fox Lake Correctional Institution told them Kahl confessed to breaking into Zimmermann’s apartment and choking her, saying his fingerprints might be on her throat, but he never admitted to killing her.

“The case is very complicated and analysis of physical evidence and those technologies have changed over the years and assisted us in getting to where we are today,” said Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl.

The break in the case came with DNA evidence that was recently tested.

In 2018, analysts matched Kahl’s DNA with evidence from Zimmermann’s shirt.

Last month, a match was found between Kahl and the jeans she was wearing that day.

“There's a little sense of relief, it's certainly a bit of a gratifying feeling that we've been able to do something to bring justice to Brittany and provide a little closure to her family,” said Wahl. “As I have occasion to look back on the case, look at a little bit about her and her photo, it's still very sad. There's nothing that we do can undo that and it's really just a tragic case.”

Online records show Kahl is currently incarcerated at Oshkosh Correctional Institution. He was found guilty of his 7th OWI in 2016.

Kahl is also a registered sex offender and was convicted of second degree sexual assault in 1993.