Cold Case: Kelly Nolan

Date Published 11.16.07
In July I wrote about the disappearance and murder of Kelly Nolan (see my story here), a college student spending the summer in Madison, Wisconsin. Kelly disappeared outside the State Street bar area in the early morning hours. I theorized that her murderer would be a peer who was very familiar with the stretch of Schneider Road, in the town of Dunn, where Kelly’s body was found. Searching through online profiles of young men living in the immediate area, I narrowed the pool of suspects even further.

Ever since the story was posted people have asked me what happened in the case. Not much, unfortunately. The few follow-up press releases and stories have not been promising. The case remains very cold.

However, one Madison news story is worth noting. In October, police issued a warning to local women, alerting them to a suspicious man who was scaring, harassing, and in some instances trying to grab women on the west side of Madison. The man was described as white, 25 to 28, and driving a black SUV. His modus operandi appeared to be asking directions to a local movie theater, then lingering and asking if the women wanted to "get together" with him. One of his targets was a 12-year-old girl; he tried to get her into his car.

Then, on October 26, police made a surprising arrest in the case: Sean Lynch, a 17-year-old with no prior record or complaints. The age is off, but Lynch resembles the suspect, and sources say he looks older than he is; police are also said to have a confession from him.

Lynch doesn't appear to be a good suspect in Kelly Nolan's murder. She disappeared in the early morning hours; Lynch was trolling the streets of west Madison mostly in the late afternoon or early evening. His clumsy attempts at “getting together” with women don't jibe with an accomplished murderer who has managed to evade police detection. Also, investigators likely questioned him about Kelly's case, looking for a connection; teenage boys aren't known for their iron-clad discretion. If guilty, he would have broken down when pressed hard enough.

However, a couple of details make him worthy of looking at again. By all accounts Kelly Nolan was intoxicated when she disappeared --- diminished inhibition may have made her an easier target for a teenager. Second, Sean Lynch is said to have moved around Madison several times in his life, so it's possible he's familiar with the area where Kelly's body was found. Several of his run-ins with women and girls took place in Fitchburg, which is only about six miles from the stretch of Schneider Road where Kelly was discovered.

But most alarming and worth looking into is what police officers discovered in Lynch's SUV when he was arrested.
In interviews with police, Lynch said he had been looking for women with whom he could have a sexual fling. When Madison Police Officer Chad Joswiak searched the SUV on Oct. 26, he found a paring knife in a door pocket, blue rope or wire behind the driver 's side seat, a hammer and a roll of duct tape. He also found that the vehicle 's rear hatch and rear window could not be opened or unlocked from the inside. The complaint does not explain why police believe those findings are significant.
Are those the tools of a fumbling novice anticipating a future criminal act, or a prepared killer responsible for one of Madison’s most frustrating cold cases?

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RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary:
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.