MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prosecutors have approved a round of DNA testing in a 1994 case that the Wisconsin Innocence Project says could clear a Spring Green woman in another woman’s death.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told the Wisconsin State Journal for a story published Sunday that the testing will be at Penny Brummer’s expense. The project plans to test the victim Sarah Gonstead’s clothes, swabs from her body, fingernail scrapings, a tissue found near her body and a Taco Bell cup.
Gonstead, 21, of Madison, was found dead three weeks after she disappeared. She was last seen alive the night of March 14, 1994, when she went bar-hopping with Brummer, then 25. Brummer testified she dropped Gonstead off behind a Madison bar and last saw her standing near a group of people in a nearby Taco Bell parking lot.
Gonstead’s clothes and underwear contain never-before-tested blood stains that don’t appear to be from the .22-caliber bullet wound that killed her, according to a motion the Innocence Project filed in Dane County Circuit Court. The testing is aimed at determining whether there is biological evidence from someone else that could raise doubt about Brummer being the perpetrator.
Prosecutors argued that Brummer killed Gonstead after a night of drinking, either 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 specific bar the night Gonstead was last seen alive. Brummer earlier denied they had been at the bar, which was near where Gonstead’s body was found, 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 on the side of the road where her body was later found. The witness said the man had a bright pink object. Gonstead’s body was found clothed in a purple and pink jacket.
“The state produced no physical evidence, confession or 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 crime.”
The motion states that multiple blood stains on the inside of and under Gonstead’s clothes are “isolated” from the gunshot wound “and may have come from the killer.”
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.
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,” the mother said. “She and I both really think this is it — it’s something that’s going to prove her innocence.”
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj