‘It was never classified as a cold case:’ Madison police respond to end of Zimmermann case

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Posted: January 20, 2023 7:00 PM

MADISON, Wis. — It took just under 12 years for the Madison Police Department to arrest David Kahl in Brittany Zimmermann’s 2008 murder, but those working the case stressed they never gave up trying to put her killer behind bars.

“I thought this day would come, but it was a matter of how we would get there,” MPD captain of investigative services Daniel Nale said, speaking to reporters along with Zimmermann’s family Friday afternoon after Kahl was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Nale, who has served as the lead investigator on the Zimmermann case since 2017, said the length of the case was a result of waiting for technology to catch up with them. Without the right technology, examining the details of DNA evidence posed a significant challenge for the department.

Still, investigators forged ahead.

“In my opinion, a cold case is something we stop working on, we let it sit for several years and then we bring it back out again and try and look at it,” Nale said. “It was never classified as a cold case.”

The case provoked the department to reimagine the detective bureau as a whole, Nale added. This redesign included officers taking a more specialized approach to homicide cases in addition to the creation of a violent crimes unit.

Now, the department hopes the community can find closure in the case’s end. When asked what he would say to current University of Wisconsin-Madison students, Nale offered some best practices for campus safety.

“If you’re currently going to school here, be aware of your surroundings, try to go places with other people and don’t go out late at night by yourself,” Nale said.


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