Two of the three young men who burglarized a Madison bar in 2008 said detectives told them forensic evidence shows there was a fourth burglar who also was involved in the killing of a UW-Madison student three months earlier.
But in separate interviews this week at the Racine Youthful Correctional Institution, Spencer L. Hutchins and Darrielle L. Banks said they know nothing about the strangulation and stabbing death of Brittany Zimmermann. They also denied a fourth burglar was involved in the bar break-in.
"Everybody on that case went down for that case," Hutchins said of the July 9, 2008, burglary at the Blue Moon Bar and Grill, 2535 University Ave. "There's nobody else ... It was just us."
Hutchins, 20, along with Banks and Ryan K. Cook, both 19, admitted to the Blue Moon break-in and burglaries at several other nearby businesses that night.
According to Dane County Circuit Court records, DNA associated with the Blue Moon break-in does not match any of the three Madison men who admitted to the burglary, nor anyone in a national database, leading police to believe a fourth person was involved in the burglary.
Hutchins and Banks said Madison detectives told them forensic evidence places a fourth burglar at the scene of the April 2, 2008, Zimmermann homicide.
"I see what they're saying, but I don't understand it at all because it's not true," Banks said.
Zimmermann, 21, was killed after returning from an exam at about 12:30 p.m. after someone forced open the outside door to her apartment building.
Police have refused to comment on any evidence or persons of interest in the Zimmermann case. Central District Capt. Mary Schauf declined to comment on Hutchins' and Banks' statements.
According to court records, the DNA associated with the Blue Moon burglary was found on what appeared to be the inside of a Plexiglas window, eliminating the possibility that it came from a random person walking by and touching it. The window, which was removed in an unsuccessful attempt to enter the bar, covered a neon sign. A wall behind the sign prevents access to the Plexiglas window from inside the bar.
It's unclear why police believe the DNA was left during the burglary rather than at some other time.
Hutchins, whose fingerprint was found on the window with the unidentified DNA, said he sees "no possible connection" between Zimmermann's killing and the Blue Moon burglary. He called any evidence that might link the two "a fake lead."
According to court records, Hutchins' attorney, Kate Findley, told a judge at an Oct. 14, 2009, resentencing hearing that prosecutors were "offering consideration if Mr. Hutchins was willing to testify in other matters, which he was not" because "It basically would have put his life in danger."
Hutchins said Findley was not referring to the Zimmermann case, but to burglaries he committed in Middleton.
Middleton police Capt. Noel Kakuske said he was not aware of anything in Hutchins' Middleton cases that would put his life in danger. Madison police would not say if Findley's statements were related to the Zimmermann case. Findley has not responded to repeated attempts to reach her for comment.
Banks said detectives initially told him they were investigating a "more serious case," which they would not identify, and offered him a monetary reward for information. Then last year, Banks said, two detectives visited him at the Racine prison, showed him a photo of Zimmermann and said forensic evidence showed a fourth person was involved in both the Blue Moon break-in and Zimmermann's killing.
"I ended the interrogation right then and there 'cause I was getting mad at the point in time 'cause it seemed they were trying to put it on me," Banks said.
Banks said police also offered his mother a reward from a fund that now stands at $40,000 for getting Banks to provide information.
"My mother's been swabbed for DNA. My whole family been swabbed for DNA," Banks said. "They been following my mother around. They been following my baby mother around."
Banks said he told police the names of five other people he claimed at the time had also taken part in the Blue Moon burglary "just to be throwing something out there" because he was "frustrated with the whole situation" and "wanted to go home."
Hutchins and Banks both said they think of the other like a "brother." Both also denied they were involved in gangs, as police and court records indicate.
"I feel hurt for her family," Hutchins said of Zimmermann, "I feel for her mom, but I cannot help her ... This murder happened when we were somewhere else."
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