Skip to Content

Man charged in Brittany Zimmerman’s homicide after DNA test finds match to victim’s clothing

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00
David Kahl
Brittany Zimmermann
Brittany Zimmermann

MADISON (WKOW) -- A 53-year old drifter was charged Friday with first degree intentional homicide in the nearly twelve year old, shocking daylight killing of UW-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann.

Authorities have charged David A. Kahl, 53, with the April 2, 2008 killing of the 21-year-old Zimmermann inside her campus apartment.

Multiple witnesses told investigators, according to the complaint, that they saw Kahl in the area of Zimmerman's West Doty Street apartment on the day of the murder.

The complaint say witnesses reported Kahl tried to get drug money by claiming to people he needed $40 to fix a flat tire. Police say in one instance he allegedly wandered into a West Washington Avenue home when he found the door unlocked. A woman inside told him to leave, the complaint said.

The complaint states the lock on Zimmermann's door was broken. It says the student was hit, stabbed several times and strangled.

"This was a truly senseless crime, taking the life of a young woman with a bright future," Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl says.

Court records say Kahl told a fellow prison inmate several years ago he had broken into Zimmermann's apartment and choked her.

Police say last month, laboratory test results showed a conclusive match between Kahl's DNA and DNA found on Zimmermann's jeans. The criminal complaint states test results in 2011 linked Kahl to DNA found under the student's fingernails, and 2014 results linked him to DNA on the woman's shirt sleeve.

Court records show police submitted DNA samples for testing a number of times over the years since the crime as scientific methods advanced, including to a private laboratory in Pittsburgh.

Wahl says this was never a cold case.

"Investigators worked tirelessly over the years following leads, conducting hundreds of interviews, processing countless pieces of evidence," Wahl says.

In a 2016 interview with 27 News, Kahl denied involvement in Zimmermann's death. "I did not murder that girl," Kahl said. In the interview, Kahl maintained any DNA match was the result of a handshake or a hug between himself and Zimmermann after she gave him money in response to his panhandling ruse. He claimed other panhandlers were responsible for barging into the woman's apartment and killing her, and said he told that to detectives. "I gave them descriptions, I gave them names," he said.

The criminal complaint notes Kahl provided descriptions in various, police interviews since the killing, but only a first name for one of the other panhandlers.

The complaint lays out statements Kahl allegedly made to police over the course of several years that seemed to contradict each other.

After the 27 News interview, Kahl was sent to state prison for repeat, drunken driving, where he remains. Representatives of the Dane County District Attorney's Office say there is no date set yet for Kahl's initial, court appearance on the homicide charge, which alleges Kahl is a party to the crime.

Wahl has not addressed whether the police investigation continues into any other suspects. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne cites the ongoing case in declining comment.

Wahl says Zimmermann's parents request privacy at this time. They've spent the past dozen years helping to keep their daughter's murder in the public's mind and advocating for justice.

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

Skip to content