David Kahl to serve life in prison with no chance for parole in Brittany Zimmermann’s murder

MADISON, Wis. — More than 14 years after UW-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann was killed inside her downtown Madison apartment, the man who admitted to her murder and eluded charges for more than a decade was sentenced to life in prison without a chance of ever being released.

Zimmermann was found dead inside her W. Doty Street apartment on April 2, 2008. She had called 911 when someone had followed her into her apartment as she returned home from class, but a dispatcher said she did not hear anything indicating a struggle or an emergency on the call and hung up.

David Kahl was identified as a person of interest in the case and his DNA was found inside the apartment. Additionally, people in the area of Zimmermann’s apartment reported seeing Kahl going door-to-door asking for money. But for years, police did not have enough to charge him — until March 2020, when he was nearing release from prison on a different charge.

Kahl pleaded guilty to Zimmermann’s murder at a hearing in October 2022 and asked to begin serving his life sentence immediately due to health concerns he said could be better treated in federal prison than the Dane County Jail.

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“The wait of 15 years has been excruciating,” Dane County Judge Chris Taylor said prior to handing down her sentence on Friday.

As part of his plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to contest a petition for extended supervision after he serves at least 20 years of his life sentence, but during Friday’s sentencing, Kahl himself argued he should be given the chance for an early release.

“I would like to apologize to everybody, especially the Zimmermann family. I took away Brittany’s 21-year-old life, family that she could’ve had,” he said. “I don’t know if her fiance’s here or not, but if he is, I want to really apologize to him as well from stopping her from having a family, giving her mother grandchildren.”

Zimmermann’s family disputed Kahl’s claims that he was taking responsibility to provide closure to them.

“Respectfully, I would like to remind the court and everyone that is listening that while Mr. Kahl purports that he has done this for us, because he’s accepting responsibility, I would like to remind the court that he has indicated on multiple occasions that this is not about us,” Zimmermann’s aunt said. “This is about him, and this is about him not wanting to put his mother through the emotional pain of her son being on trial.”

Zimmermann’s aunt took a deep sigh before ultimately saying whatever his motivations may be, they were happy Kahl was not fighting the reality he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

RELATED: Sentencing brings relief, but not closure, to family of Brittany Zimmermann

“I’m grateful. My entire family is grateful that he is in agreement with the request to never be paroled on extended supervision because I think it’s important for the court to know we will fight forever, we fight until the day he is dead that he stays incarcerated,” she said. “He has had 15 years of freedom in which we have had zero freedom in our reality. And so I just need to have the last word on that.”