21-year-old Brittany Zimmermann was murdered in her downtown Madison, WI apartment, after taking an exam. Transient David Kahl broke into her Doty Street rental and repeatedly stabbed her when she was on the phone with 911.
On April 2, 2008, 21-year-old Brittany Zimmerman was murdered in her apartment in Madison, Wisconsin. Her fiancé, Jordan Gonnering, found her on the floor and called 911. She had been stabbed to death. The area where Brittany lived, Doty-Bassett neighborhood, was known for its transient homeless population, some of whom were on drugs. Madison police focused their investigation on this community, looking for potential suspects or witnesses.
Brittany’s murder was the fifth unsolved homicide in Madison in less than a year, causing concern among residents and students about safety in the city. A memorial vigil was held in her honor on Library Mall, and police made a major crackdown on homeless and transient men in the area, but no suspects were identified.
Brittany was an exceptional student, graduating in the top 10% of her high school class and majoring in medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She planned to become a doctor.
David Kahl, a convicted sex offender with a history of drug use and paranoid schizophrenia, was identified as a potential witness in the case. He claimed to have been running scams with two other men on the day of the murder but denied involvement in Brittany’s death.
The 911 call center in Madison, Wisconsin, was criticized for mishandling Brittany Zimmerman’s call, which led to changes in protocols and the collection of basic metrics about the effectiveness of the call center. The director at the time, Joe Norwick, resigned from his position, and John Dejung was hired as the new director with 12 years of 911 experience from Minneapolis.
Before Brittany was cremated, her fiancé Jordan placed her diamond engagement ring on her finger. The Zimmermans were holding off on bringing Brittany’s ashes to the cemetery because they didn’t want her there by herself. When either Jean or Kevin passed, they would bury their daughter with a deceased parent.
Kahl was charged and pleaded guilty to the murder of Brittany Zimmerman, who was stabbed 19 times in her apartment in April 2008. Kahl had broken into her apartment while high on crack cocaine and attempted to strangle her before stabbing her to death. He was caught after he scammed residents in the area and left his Department of Corrections Offender ID card with one of them.
Kahl completed an early release program for nonviolent offenders but had his release canceled when he was charged with Brittany Zimmermann’s murder. He was deemed competent to stand trial in June 2021 and pleaded guilty in October 2022.
The tragedy of Brittany Zimmerman’s murder is compounded by the fact that it might have been prevented. The mishandling of her 911 call delayed the investigation and allowed the killer to remain at large for years. While the changes made to the call center protocols were necessary, they came too late for Brittany and her family. The Zimmermans were left to mourn the loss of their daughter, a promising young woman with a bright future, taken from them too soon.
Research, Writing, Editing, Audio Production, and Sound Design by Renee Lynn
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