A registered sex offender pleaded guilty on Thursday as the person who strangled and stabbed University of Wisconsin-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann, 21, at her apartment. David A. Kahl, 53, was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree intentional homicide. As part of the deal, prosecutors won’t stand in the way of his defense requesting a chance for him to be released on “extended supervision” after 20 years, according to WISC. The judge scheduled a hearing for Jan. 12, 2023 to decide whether to approve that request.
Police reportedly said that someone followed Zimmermann into her apartment after she returned home from classes in 2008. DNA linked Kahl to the scene.
To hear his attorney Ben Gonring tell it, Kahl let go of a secret kept for 14 years, according to WISN.
Lawyer: on that day Kahl was running a scheme and didn’t intend to harm anyone. Kahl says Zimmermann was kind. Kahl once he got in there and wasn’t going to get money he stepped into the bathroom and noticed she was on the phone. He was on drugs and paranoid.
— Elizabeth Wadas TV (@ElizabethWadas) October 27, 2022
Kahl went door-to-door in Zimmerman’s neighborhood, telling people he needed money for a flat tire but in truth, it was to pay for crack cocaine, the attorney said. He then arrived at Zimmermann’s apartment, entered the bathroom and exited when she was on the phone, the defense said.
“He basically lost it, for lack of a better phrase,” Gonring said. “He was in the throes of a lot of drug usage and was paranoid and had not been out of prison for all that long, was very worried about what was happening on the other end of that line, and then proceeded to do acts which absolutely fit the criteria for first-degree intentional homicide. He certainly didn’t go there with the intent to kill anybody or even harm anybody. And she was kind. The evidence has always been clear that she was a kind-hearted person and was that day.”
Zimmermann’s aunt Kimberly Heeg voiced outrage at the defense’s request that Kahl get transferred from jail to prison for access to better mental health care.
“I think it takes a lot of audacity for someone in custody to request a transfer from the county jail to the state prison because he thinks he will get better medical care after he has stripped my family of an incredibly loved and amazing human who wanted to do nothing but good things in this world,” she said, according to WISC.
Though she described the request as “nothing short of obnoxious,” she had no problem with him starting his sentence immediately, she said.
“I’m glad that he has been able to tell the court that he is guilty,” she said. “I’m glad that he feels that he has a clear conscience at this point, but we as a family have nothing but pain. We have nothing but daily reminders, and we’ve had nothing but torture for 14 and a half years while he did his soul-searching to decided to come clean.”
Zimmermann was a registered sex offender from a 1993 conviction for second-degree sexual assault.
His history reportedly includes convictions for burglary, and theft.
[Mugshot of Kahl via via Dane County Jail]
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