Brittany Zimmermann's screams are apparently captured on an audiotape of a 911 call she placed as she was being attacked inside her downtown Madison apartment, according to newly released court documents.
"The disconnect call started with the sound of a woman screaming and the line remains active and open picking up the background sounds of a struggle for a short period of time," according to a search warrant affidavit signed by Madison Police Det. Marion Morgan.
Among the new details in the unsealed court documents:
- Brittany Zimmermann was apparently alive when she first called 911 at 12:20 p.m. on April 2, about 40 minutes before her body was discovered by her fiancée.
- Zimmermann died of "complex homicidal violence," including multiple "sharp force trauma wounds" and "multiple blunt force trauma blows." Multiple stab wounds penetrated Zimmermann's heart, and the knife was two to five inches long and 1.5-2.0 centimeters wide.
- Police believe the killer forcibly broke into Zimmermann's residence.
- There is some indication that police found suspect DNA at the scene. Judge Sarah O'Brien, in her order to reseal the warrants, writes, "Several of the warrants reveal that the perpetrator(s) left DNA at the scene."
The disclosure of this information in court records is the first confirmation that Zimmermann was alive when she called 911 for help on April 2. Police were not dispatched to the call, and Dane County authorities refused to disclose its existence until confidential law enforcement officials provided confirmation to Isthmus, which broke the story on May 1.
After the call's existence became public, Dane County authorities said a dispatcher only heard silence, and after the call was disconnected, became busy answering other calls and forgot to call back.
Det. Morgan's sworn statement indicating that Zimmermann's screams can be heard seems to contradict earlier assertions by Dane County officials about what was heard on the tape. A union official who listened to the tape has also said nothing but background noise and slight rustling could be heard on the tape.
Zimmermann placed the call at 12:20 p.m., the newly released documents show. For seven months, authorities have insisted the release of that fact would compromise their homicide investigation and downplayed the possibility that Zimmermann's life might have been saved had the 911 Center not made mistakes in the case.
Zimmermann's body was found by her fiancé, who called 911 at 1:08 p.m. to report that Zimmermann had been shot. Her injuries were apparently so significant that he was mistaken about the cause.
Zimmermann's apartment is only a few blocks away from the downtown headquarters of the Madison Police Department.
The seven search warrants related to the case had been under seal until last week, when the Dane County District Attorney's Office apparently forgot that the seal had expired. The Wisconsin State Journal was the first to report about them.
The warrants confirm that police zeroed in a number of so-called transients in the weeks after the homicide, as Isthmus reported in May. Six of the seven warrants were related to evidence collection from potential suspects, all of whom have apparently been cleared by police.
The first search warrant (Search Warrant 1) was for Zimmermann's apartment at 517 West Doty Street and her fiancé's 1999 Volkswagen Golf. Police did not believe robbery was a motive since nothing appeared missing. Among the items collected for evidence were knives, sink drain traps, 18 blood samples and 23 swabs for DNA.
Four search warrants were filed in connection with Thomas Cosgrove, a man who was retroactively jailed for carrying a concealed weapon after he and other presumably homeless men were found sleeping in Vilas Hall on the UW-Madison campus. Two of the warrants (SW3 and SW6) sought surveillance video from the FedEx Kinko's on the corner of West Washington Avenue and Regent Street related to the same man, while two others (SW2 and SW4) were for clothing and personal items.
Cosgrove reportedly told police that he wasn't sure whether they'd find his footprints at the Zimmermann murder scene.
Another warrant sought DNA evidence and photograph of Jeffrey D. Ball (SW 5), who, as Isthmus reported in May, was considered a suspect after he threatened to stab a Butler Plaza employee upon being discovered sleeping in a women's bathroom. Police found a bloody knife in Ball's possession days after the Zimmermann homicide.
A final warrant sought a (SW 7) DNA sample from Chauncey A. Mack, who witnesses reported was bragging on State Street about stabbing Zimmermann.
Isthmus' Jason Shepard will appear on Greta Van Susteren's "On the Record" tonight at 9 p.m. on the Fox News Channel (Cable Channel 62).