Man pleads guilty to killing college student 14 years later: ‘A lot of broken hearts here’

Published: Oct. 29, 2022 at 5:28 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WISC) - After more than 14 years, a Wisconsin family finally has some closure.

David Kahl admitted in court Thursday that he killed Brittany Zimmermann.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison student was found dead inside her apartment in 2008.

Kahl was a previous person of interest but wasn’t arrested for the murder until 2020. He was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday after agreeing to a plea deal.

“How technology has moved forward in forensics, I think that ended up being key,” said Madison Police Det. Daniel Nale.

In court, Kahl’s attorney explained what happened that day in 2008.

While running a door-to-door scam in the neighborhood, Kahl stopped at Zimmermann’s home. High on drugs and paranoid, he lost it when he saw her on the phone.

Zimmermann’s fiancé would find her later stabbed and strangled.

“It was much more about him letting go of a secret and ensuring that he provided closure to all of the people who spent a lot of time, energy, and emotion,” said defense attorney Ben Gonring.

However, for the family, they say their heartbreak is hardly over.

“I’m glad he feels he has a free conscience at this point, but we have nothing but pain as a family. We have daily reminders, and we’ve had nothing but torture for 14 and a half years,” said Kimberly Heeg, Zimmerman’s aunt.

Kahl was already in prison for a different crime when he was charged with Zimmermann’s murder.

“When you take someone’s life, you take a lot of other people’s lives too. There’s a lot of broken hearts here,” said Dane County Circuit Court Judge Chris Taylor.

The defense requested Kahl start his life sentence immediately because the prison system can treat his health issues better than jail.