The day after a press conference this week announcing a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for the 1994 killing of Sarah Gonstead in Madison, a person of interest in a private investigator's probe has come forward and stated she is "100% positive the right person is behind bars."
Glenda Johnson said she bases her certainty in part on the fact that Penny Brummer, the wrongfully convicted, served her country in the United States Armed Forces.
Writes Johnson in a Facebook response (Dec. 15; 7:01 p.m.) to a WKOW-TV (Madison) report by WKOW journalist, Matt Cash: "She [Penny] had her share of issues when she lived in California. She was in the military... A MP. Plus.... I am 100% positive the right person is behind bars ... ."
Penny Brummer did enlist in the Air Force right out of high school in 1987, and after basic training was transferred to Castle Air Force Base in California assigned to base security. She was honorably discharged in 1993, (Berry, p.14).
The full Facebook post by Ms. Johnson reads: "Well lets just say this... The facts on the [WKOW] page/link are wrong. They never made it back to the east side of Madison... Timeline doesn't add up. Last place they were seen together was 1.5 miles from where her body was found... Penny was a very controlling person.. She had her share of issues when she lived in California. She was in the military... A MP. Plus.... I am 100% positive the right person is behind bars. How many times do kids... Even adults lie to their parents. It's a ploy for money because the police have closed this case.... And Penny's mom says ... Penny wouldn't do it."
A reply to Johnson by a co-author of a detailed book on the homicide, by Sheila Berry, reads in full: "Glenda Johnson We have the police reports and the transcripts of everything -- initial appearance, preliminary, motions, trial and sentencing. It is clear from police reports that YOU raised the hue and cry that Sarah never made it to your house, before anyone knew she was missing. Did the police get that wrong? How about that 3 hour gap after you left work -- so upset -- but didn't go home? That's the same time frame when an independent witness saw someone dumping a bright pink "bundle" that turned out to be Sarah's body. As Shakspeare said, methinks the lady doth protest too much."
Why Glenda Johnson—who lived in the home to which Ms. Gonstead was last reported to have been intent on visiting—is so vested to see Penny Brummer behind bars and affirm the integrity of a clearly faulty police investigation is interesting, certainly pertinent to the 1994 criminal investigation.
The police quickly developed their theory and declined investigating leads disconfirming or not supporting their theory, (tunnel vision in the vernacular of criminal justice), and barely questioned Ms. Johnson. The Dane County District Attorney's office went along for the ride.
Sarah Gonstead was last seen on March 24, 1994. Her body was recovered on April 9, 1994 in Pine Bluff, an unincorporated community west of Madison. "In less than a week authorities had zeroed in on 24-year-old Penny Brummer. The last person to admit to seeing Gonstead alive after their night of binge drinking [together]," (Pabich, WMTV (Madison).
Notes author and attorney Sheila Berry on her website:
Witness David Zoromski, who reported seeing a suspicious man standing by the open passenger door of a parked pickup truck exactly where Sarah's body was later found, was told by a Dane County Sheriff's Deputy, 'What you saw is all very interesting, but we have a suspect and it doesn't fit.' The man seen by Mr. Zoromski matched the description of the person Penny said she saw Sarah talking to near the Taco Bell at East Washington Avenue and North Oak Street in Madison, after she dropped her off that night. Police identified him and knew he was a convicted felon with a long history of violence toward women -- but they never followed up on this lead.
The blood alcohol level in Sarah's liver suggests a time of death several hours after Penny was back at her Spring Green home, watching TV.
The dearth of evidence and many facts do not fit, and do not support a conviction, and Penny Brummer remains in prison serving a life sentence.