Monday, June 29, 2009

Kelly Nolan, Plus Two Years

Last week, with little notice, the Kelly Nolan murder mystery slipped into its third year with no resolution and no new leads. It was a Friday night in June 2007 when the 22-year-old coed was at the downtown bars with her friends. They parted ways about 11:30; around bar time she left the Lava Lounge with an unknown man, and that’s the last anybody saw of her.

Two weeks later on July 9th, I was working my usual morning news anchor shift when I got a call from an extremely reliable source that they’d found Nolan’s body in a wooded area just off a country road south of Madison in the Town of Dunn. I confirmed it and put it on the air.

Since then, Madison police have contacted over 500 people, followed up on a couple hundred tips, have generated over a thousand pages of reports on the murder, but still haven’t fingered a suspect. However, they’re still confident they will eventually catch her killer.

To this day, two years later, the principal problem in the case seems to be that nobody can identify the mysterious stranger Nolan was last seen with outside the Lava Lounge. Cops won’t confirm it, but witnesses say she left the bar with this person because somebody else in the bar was harassing her.

Madison police have reviewed the surveillance video from the bar, and have said that at no time does Nolan appear to be interacting in any way with the person last seen with her.

She made a cell phone call to her sister April in the wee hours of the morning, and that’s the last known contact she had with anyone. We have only a vague notion of what she said to her sister in that call. It’s one of the many things the public doesn’t know about the case.

This particular case hit me pretty hard personally, as at the time it happened my daughter was a 22-year-old UW grad just embarking on her professional career, and living downtown. Her mother and I spoke with her several times that summer about being extremely careful while out with her friends at the bars downtown.

Statistically, Madison is an ultimately safe city. Unlike Milwaukee, where unfortunately murders have become somewhat common, Madison’s downtown is not dangerous, if you keep your wits about you.

But statistics mean nothing to grieving families, and I hope, as a parent and concerned citizen, that the Madison police can bring Kelly Nolan’s killer to justice.


  1. Thank you for the post. I know their family personally and it is a tragedy this happened. I think about it often still and hope they find justice. There were so many things hidden from the public on this case and it seemed they were going to find someone soon after it happened, but still we have heard nothing and don't know details of what occurred.

  2. I am finding seemingly conflicting information about this case. At first I thought there were two men in question--the friend from a cafe she went outside with to get away from the harassing guy, and the harassing guy. Is there a third person? Who is the person last seen with her, is that the stranger? Does this person appear on video, but not interacting with her? If so, it would seem simple to follow that up unless they can't find this guy with only a face. If that is the case, why hasn't the public been told what that guy looks like, or why hasn't his photograph been published???