Madison police chief Noble Wray announced Friday that Madison police have arrested a suspect in the murder of hospital equipment salesman Joel Marino. Adam Peterson, 20, was arrested in the metro Twin Cities area. His father told the media that Peterson attended the University of Wisconsin briefly.
Marino was stabbed January 27, 2008, in a quiet working-class lakeside neighborhood. He bled to death en route to a nearby hospital emergency room. The killer left behind a backpack, a hat and a knife in a rush to escape. DNA evidence from the objects matched Peterson.
Meanwhile, Kevin and Jean Zimmerman are suing Dane County and a 911 dispatcher for dropping their daughter Brittany’s cell phone call shortly before she was murdered. Wray said there is not current DNA evidence tying Peterson to Zimmerman’s murder.
Marshfield native and University of Wisconsin molecular biology and immunology student Brittany Zimmerman, 21, was murdered before noon on April 2 2008, in her West Doty Street apartment. It is known that she called 911 just before she died. Zimmerman then either hung up or operators hung up on her; this may never be known. Operators at the 911 system neither called her back nor sent police officers to the Global Positioning System location which all cellular phones now provide. The dispatcher in question was transferred to a county child support agency and might have government immunity for work in the 911 center.
It is likely that a homeless man broke into Zimmerman’s apartment to steal and that she surprised him, leading to her being stabbed. The wrongful death suit by her parents says Madison did not curb homeless people in Zimmerman’s campus neighborhood, Dane County knew it did not have enough dispatchers and they were not trained well. Isthmus reported months ago that dissatisfaction and employee turnover at the 911 center were both rampant. Poor training was cited by many who left.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has been dogged by contradictory comments about the Zimmerman call and the 911 system. So has Joe Norwick, director of the Dane County 911 system. At a County Commission meeting after the Zimmerman death, Norwick did not to know how many calls were made to the center monthly and how many are from cell telephones or landlines. Wray, irate about the 911 center not dispatching police to the Zimmerman scene, has pointedly asked how many calls for help in Madison did not result in police being notified. Falk has expressed confidence in Norwick, a former deputy sheriff.
It is possible that Falk and Norwick will receive subpoenas to testify in a Zimmerman trial. That would be embarrassing to both and it would not be surprising if each turns on the other to assess blame.
We are also coming up on the one-year anniversary of the murder of Kelly Nolan, 22. UW-Whitewater student Nolan disappeared from State Street near bar time on June 23, 2007, triggering a national man-hunt similar to that for Natalee Holloway, when she disappeared in Aruba. Nolan’s decomposing body was found in the woods near Oregon, Wisconsin, about a week later. It is not known if there was DNA evidence.
There are other unsolved murders in Madison but murders on campus or downtown explode the myth that Madison is somehow immune from this violence. It is comforting to those of us who are harsh critics of Madison liberals that an arrest was made in the Marino case. Now the Nolan and Zimmerman cases demand attention.