Mayor Dave Cieslewicz knew within hours that the Dane County 911 Center had gotten a call from the cell phone of Brittany Zimmermann on April 2, the day she was murdered. But like others in the know, he kept mum about it.
Cieslewicz tells Isthmus that Police Chief Noble Wray "brought the issue to my attention. It may have been the evening of the murder." Cieslewicz, wanting more information, suggested to County Executive Kathleen Falk that "it would be a good idea for the county to have an investigation." She readily agreed: "It wasn't as though I had to twist her arm."
That probe led to a 40-page report, released after Isthmus revealed the call and officials admitted it had been mishandled. Cieslewicz, who has seen only the heavily redacted public version, feels "there are obviously some issues at 911 that need to be addressed."
On Monday, a public meeting on the issue drew about 80 residents but no county or 911 Center officials. (Read Jason Shepard's report here.)
Concerns over the center have not been assuaged by the recent release of the March 21 call from a man who believed he saw Joel Marino's killer and another man walking through his neighborhood. The caller, a retired Madison firefighter (more than one of whom live in the area), asks the call-taker, "You know that murder investigation we have going on here?"
"Okay," the call-taker responds. The caller says, "I was the person who saw him that first day" - Jan. 28, when Marino was killed - and "I was the witness that gave the description."
The call-taker conveyed in writing that two suspicious men were walking on Park Street that the caller "THINKS RELATED TO MURDER INVESTIGATION." The dispatcher passed this on to two police units (one of which was called off before arriving), adding, "We're not sure what they're actually talking about."
This call occurred two weeks before Zimmermann's killing, so the Marino case was the neighborhood's only recent murder. The firefighter tells Isthmus he doesn't know why, if his meaning was unclear, he wasn't asked for more information.
Tom Hanrahan, a 911 Center official, says call-takers should seek additional information "anytime something is not clear." But he adds, with regard to this call-taker. "I hear her say 'Okay.'"
Cieslewicz, unlike the public, has been allowed to hear the 911 call from Zimmermann's phone. "There is evidence here that could help catch and ultimately convict the person who did this," he says, declining to be more specific.
The mayor agrees it's fair to ask whether police should be releasing more information, to protect and empower the public. But given what's been shared with him, he backs the balance being struck by the cops: "Based on what I know, I feel the police department has been making the right decisions."