DNA tests approved in Gonstead murder case
DEE J. HALL | Wisconsin State Journal | firstname.lastname@example.org |
608-252-6132 | @DeeJHall | Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2012 9:00 am
County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne approved a new round
of DNA testing in a 1994 murder case the Wisconsin Innocence Project
says could prove Penny Brummer’s innocence.
The project seeks to test victim Sarah Gonstead’s clothes, swabs from
her body, fingernail scrapings, a tissue found near the body and a Taco
Bell cup. Ozanne said his office will make the evidence available for
testing at Brummer’s expense.
Gonstead, 21, of Madison was found April 9, 1994, near Mineral Point
Road west of Pine Bluff three weeks after she disappeared. She was last
seen the night of March 14, 1994, when she went bar-hopping with
Brummer, then 25. Brummer testified she dropped Gonstead off around 11
p.m. behind a bar on East Washington Avenue and last saw her standing
near a group of people in a nearby Taco Bell parking lot.
According to the motion filed in Dane County Circuit Court, the clothes
and underwear worn by Gonstead contain never-before-tested blood stains
that do not appear to have come from the .22-caliber bullet wound to
the head that killed her.
The case against Brummer was circumstantial. Prosecutors argued that
after a night of drinking, Brummer, of Spring Green, killed Gonstead
because of jealousy or because Gonstead had been advising Brummer’s
ex-girlfriend to start dating men again.
Suspicion grew when a .22-caliber revolver that belonged to Brummer’s
father couldn’t be found during a search of the family home, and after
Brummer and Gonstead were identified as having been at a bar that night
near where the young woman’s body was found. Brummer earlier denied the
two had been at the bar but later conceded to police she may have
“blacked out” from a night of heavy drinking.
The defense maintains Gonstead met her killer after Brummer dropped her
off. At trial, Brummer’s side produced a witness who said he saw a man
two nights after Gonstead disappeared with a bright pink object on the
side of Mineral Point Road close to where Gonstead’s body — clad in a
purple and pink jacket — was later found.
“The state produced no physical evidence,
eyewitnesses to the murder,” Innocence Project attorney John Pray
argued in the motion. “Evidence that a person’s DNA is on multiple
pieces of evidence and this DNA not belonging to Brummer would strongly
suggest that someone other than Brummer was the perpetrator of this
Ozanne said state law requires him to turn over evidence for DNA
testing at the defendant’s expense in cases in which the results could
be relevant to a claim of innocence.
“We are charged with protecting the rights of all citizens, which also
include the rights of defendants,” Ozanne said. “We can only do this if
we at every point look to uphold the integrity of the criminal justice
system. ... So if there are legitimate questions or concerns, it is
important for all of us to try to address them.”
The motion states that most of the items have never been subjected to
DNA testing, including the Taco Bell cup — found about 100 yards from
the scene but possibly blown by the wind — the fingernail scrapings,
swabs from Gonstead’s leg and pubic area and her jacket and T-shirt.
The testing is aimed at determining whether there is biological
evidence from someone else that could raise doubt about Brummer being
The motion states that multiple stains on the inside and under
Gonstead’s clothes are “isolated” from the gunshot wound “and may have
come from the killer.”
Brummer’s trial attorney, Jack Priester, said he would welcome testing.
“That case has always bothered me,” said Priester, of Madison. “I’ve
never come to accept that verdict. There’s something more there, I’m
sure of it.”
Nancy Brummer said she’s optimistic the results could set her daughter
free after 18 years.
“It’s time for it (evidence) to come out in the open and finally clear
her, because she’s innocent,” Brummer said. “She and I both really
think this is it — it’s something that’s going to prove her innocence.”
help pay for DNA testing by sending a donation to:
Brummer Defense Fund
O. Box 369
Green, WI 53588
should be made payable to "Penny Brummer Defense Fund".