The Case Sarah's Last Walk Kelly Nolan DNA testing

Who Killed Sarah?

Recounting all of the reasons to doubt Penny's guilt would take, well, a book, but here are a few:

Police clearly had "tunnel vision" in building a case against Penny, another common feature in wrongful convictions. 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.

Sarah's murder -- a bullet to the back of the head -- is consistent with a biker execution, and the extensive impact damage to the bullet may indicate it was a .22 magnum, the sort bikers prefer. Significantly, this type of ammo cannot be fired from the gun, never found, that the prosecution held to be the murder weapon.  During the same period of time, Madison, WI was epicenter of ongoing turf disputes among members of outlaw biker clubs -- most notably, Hell's Angels, Hell's Henchmen, CC Riders and the Outlaws.  While the Outlaws spent most of March, 1994 in Daytona, Florida, other clubs got busy recruiting new members, which included efforts to sign up groups of bikers who rode together and who were already selling drugs and running a "chop shop" to refit stolen vehicles.  Three outlaw bikers had a motor home parked just yards from Sarah's best friend's house, and Sarah had to walk past it to reach her destination.  Authorities went so far as to force a patrol officer to recant her report in an unrelated matter that documented the motor home's presence at that location on the date that Sarah disappeared.

The prosecution was clearly worried that jurors would believe Penny's testimony.  The state got a major boost from Madison resident James Foseid, who emerged mid-trial claiming he heard Penny at a bar vowing to kill her lover's friend, whom she called "a fat, ugly bitch."

When we questioned jurors after the trial, Mr. Foseid's testimony was cited by all of them as pivotal in their guilty verdict.
James Foseid
James Foseid

When Mr. Foseid was asked about this several years later, he insisted he could not possibly have been mistaken, since the woman making death threats had said her name was Penny -- a highly pertinent detail he never mentioned at trial. The DA's office used this make-it-up-as-he-goes witness to help put Penny behind bars for the rest of her life.

*  *  *

In 2018, nearly a quarter century after Sarah was killed and Penny was convicted, we obtained copies of a joint report by agents of the FBI, ATF, Wis. Dept. of Justice and Vernon County Sheriff's Office.  It detailed the role of Michael O'Neill, who at the time was a private detective in Madison, WI, in protecting members of the outlaw biker clubs when they were charged with crimes.  Mr. O'Neill, in exchange for 3.5 grams of cocaine "retainer" per week ("8 ball"), would come up with alibis for club members, then pay people to go to the police or DA with the alibis.  Sometimes Mr. O'Neill would hire someone to plant drugs in a target's car, then call the anonymous tip line to turn them in. 

So why is that important?  Michael O'Neill was the defense investigator in Penny's case.  He attached himself at her initial appearance and convinced Penny's mother that no one else could do the job as well as he could.  We can't ask Mr. O'Neill about this because he died more than 10 years ago.  He had a deep interest in protecting his drug sources, and a history of paying people to lie and frame others. 

Was there a connection between Mike O'Neill and James Foseid?  If you know, call the tip line, 800-407-1178.

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Who Killed Sarah
MIP Publications
If you prefer, you can send a check to:

Penny Brummer Defense Fund
The People's Community Bank
P. O. Box 369
Spring Green, WI  53588

Checks should be made payable to "Penny Brummer Defense Fund".  Thank you!

$10,000.00 reward for information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the death of Sarah Gonstead, call tips to 800-407-1178.

Take Action!
1) Share this story with everyone you know using all of your social networks. Point people to this website or to Penny Brummer Defense Fundrazr.

2) If you know anything, call 800-407-1178. Wait for the cue to leave a message. Do the right thing, and be rewarded for it.

3) Ask DA Ismael Ozanne to reopen the investigation (Dane Co. DA's Office, 215 S Hamilton St., Ste 3000, Madison, WI 53703-3211)

4) Say a prayer.

Click the title to read Phil Brinkman's 2005 series Who killed Sarah? The trial of Penny Brummer in the Wisconsin State Journal.