Top 10 Posts on Military Justice for All in 2017

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  1. Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
  2. Navy Veteran Richard Uffelman & Two Children Opened Fire and Killed Neighbors Michael and Florence Phillips in Maine, Richard Sentenced to Life in Prison (1989)
  3. Navy Spouse Susan Russo Hired Drug Addicted Hitmen for $100 to Murder Husband David for the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance (1994)
  4. Navy Wife Dina Kichler Raped & Murdered in Mayport, Florida by John Brewer Shortly After her Husband Deployed for Six Months on USS Forestall (1990)
  5. Joseph Snodgrass, US Air Force, Hired Hitmen to Murder Wife Julie at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines for the $400,000 Life Insurance Payout (1991)
  6. Fort Bliss Army Commander Captain Lynn Reister Murdered by Enlisted Husband Roger and His Brother Rodney for the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance (2001)
  7. A Complete List of the 35 Basic Military Training Instructors Court Martialed in the Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal
  8. Air Force Retiree Philip Inhofer Murdered by Nevada Escort for Money and 1975 Mercedes Convertible; Michelle Cummiskey Sentenced to 25 Years to Life (1991)
  9. Navy Petty Officer Elise Makdessi Double Crossed & Murdered by Husband Eddie who Came Up with a Better Plan Yielding him $700,000 in Life Insurance (1996)
  10. Air Force SSgt Michael Severance Poisoned with Animal Medications by Veterinarian Wife, Wendi Davidson Plead ‘No Contest’ to First Degree Murder, Sentenced to 25 Years (2005)

Reasonable Doubt Premiered ‘Failure to Remember’ on Investigation Discovery: Penny Brummer (June 21, 2017)


Penny Brummer, a military vet, is accused of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend in a jealous rage. However, Penny was so drunk that night she was in a blackout state. Can Chris and Melissa help fill in the gaps of her memory to prove her innocence? -Reasonable Doubt, Investigation Discovery

Air Force veteran Penny Brummer was convicted on October 1, 1994 of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend 21-year-old Sarah Gonstead in Madison, Wisconsin. On March 14, 1994, after a night of heavy drinking with Penny, Sarah was shot in the back of the head execution style and found three weeks later in a secluded field. Detectives theorized that Sarah most likely trusted her killer. On this episode of Investigation Discovery’s Reasonable Doubt, Penny’s mother, Nancy Brummer, turned to Detective Chris Anderson and criminal defense attorney Melissa Lewkowicz to help her prove Penny’s innocence. Nancy believes the prosecution had no concrete evidence except for circumstantial evidence and she also believes the the jury was biased and led to believe that lesbians are inherently violent. Detective Anderson and Melissa Lewkowicz worked with Nancy Brummer by taking a second look at Penny Brummer’s case featured in the ninth episode of Reasonable Doubt aptly titled ‘Failure to Remember’. It’s their job to investigate the cases that family members swear are wrongful homicide convictions and in the end the duo share their assessment of guilt or innocence based on meticulous investigative work.

Nancy Brummer has been fighting to free her daughter for twenty-two years. She told Detective Anderson and Melissa that they were her last hope. The two learned that Sarah Gonstead left her mother’s house to go out for a night of drinking to celebrate her 21st birthday with her friend Penny but Sarah never came home. Twenty-five days later, Sarah was found in a secluded field in Madison. Sarah had been shot execution style in the back of the head and Penny was the last known person to see her alive. Eight days later, Penny was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Penny claims she pulled over to clean up some beer that spilled in her vehicle and Sarah exited the vehicle to walk half a block to her best friend Glenda’s house. But prosecutors painted a darker picture. They theorized the two got drunk and Penny drove Sarah out to a empty soy field and murdered her. Prosecutors believed the motive was jealousy because Glenda had just broken up with Penny and Penny blamed Sarah for the break-up. They claimed Penny wanted revenge and the jury bought it. Penny Brummer is currently serving life in prison and her first opportunity for parole is in 2045.

Detective Anderson and Melissa met with the Nancy Brummer first to hear her plea for justice. Nancy stated that she wanted to find the person who committed the crime and free Penny so she can come home. Nancy confirmed that Glenda and Penny were dating and broke up about a month prior to Sarah’s disappearance. Sarah was Glenda’s best friend and the three of them would hang out and party together. Penny was in her early twenties at the time of the homicide so her behavior was typical of most young people at that stage in their life. Nancy Brummer described Penny as very social and happy-go-lucky. She said Penny was really into sports and she was on the softball team and volleyball team in high school. Nancy opined Penny was a typical teenager and started drinking around the age of seventeen. After high school, Penny joined the Air Force and shared with her mom that it was hard being in the military because of the secrecy she had to maintain regarding her sexual orientation. Nancy Brummer believes that the jury was biased and led to believe that a lesbian is more prone to violence. She referenced a questionnaire that Melissa agreed was inflammatory and would need a second look.

The prosecution painted a picture that Penny was jealous of the friendship between Glenda and Sarah. The two were strictly friends and Sarah was straight. Nancy observed that Penny was sad and disappointed about the break-up but not what one would consider obsessive. She reminded Detective Anderson and Melissa that the prosecution had nothing: no physical evidence, no DNA, no blood evidence, nothing that tied Penny to the murder. The prosecution said the gun that was used in the commission of the crime was a 22 handgun that belonged to Penny’s father. Nancy admits that her husband’s gun did go missing and was never recovered. When Sarah’s body was found, Nancy said a witness came forward to the police and said that he had driven by the scene of the crime a day or two after the murder and saw a suspicious vehicle along the side of the road. He saw a man standing behind the vehicle with what looked like a pink and purple duffle bag and as it turns out, Sarah’s jacket was the same pink and purple color. Nancy said this evidence was ignored. Nancy informed both Detective Anderson and Melissa that even if they don’t find Penny innocent, she will keep fighting for her release.

Detective Anderson and Melissa began their investigation. Detective Anderson started with the man who was the eyewitness. This man told Detective Anderson that he did in fact see a vehicle by the side of the road near the location of where Sarah’s body was found in the field. He claims he made eye contact with the man in question but that was about the extent of it. He said after the man made eye contact with him, he put his head down. The eyewitness was concerned that this man was trying to move the body, after all it was only a couple days after she had gone missing. He said the police informed him that they already had a suspect in the case and he felt that his testimony was largely discounted and ignored. Melissa investigated the prosecutors jealousy motive. One of Penny’s close friends described her as a great friend and a someone she went bar-hopping with. Penny’s friend believes that she was a binge drinker and most likely an alcoholic because she would drink until she blacked out. Penny’s friends said she hoped she would get back together with Glenda but certainly didn’t act like a jealous ex-girlfriend. Penny’s friend Mary believes she is innocent.

Detective Anderson met with a forensic expert to go over the physical evidence or lack there of. The two examined the crime scene photos and other evidence available. The forensic expert didn’t see any signs of struggle and it appeared Sarah’s body fell forward after she was shot in the head. There was no sexual assault and no beating. It was an execution style killing and Sarah most likely knew and trusted the person who shot her. Sarah was walking in front of the perpetrator when she was shot in the back of her head. Detective Anderson visited the last known location of both Penny and Sarah, a local bar in Madison. A witness said Sarah and Penny were celebrating Sarah’s birthday because she had just turned twenty-one. The two had been drinking prior to their arrival at the bar but the witness didn’t think either appeared to be drunk. She said they showed up at the bar around 10:30 p.m. and left a couple hours later; they had a couple drinks while they were there. The witness observed they were both in great spirits and having fun and they were both able to carry on a conversation. On the night in question, Sarah was kind of quiet while Penny appeared to be enjoying herself with others at the bar. Neither of them were agitated or upset; they both appeared to be in a really good mood.

Detective Anderson interviewed Penny via the telephone. Penny said she dated Glenda for 8 or 9 months and admits she fell in love with her. She also claimed to have a nice friendship with Sarah. She shared that Sarah never did anything bad to her and never meddled in her relationship with Glenda. Penny said Glenda just decided one day to end things and told her she was going back on birth control. Penny assumed Glenda wanted to go back to guys. After the break-up, Penny was heartbroken. She admitted she got physical with Glenda one time; they pushed each other during an argument. On March 14, 1994, Penny said she got out of work around 7:30 p.m., got some beer, and went to Sarah’s house. Penny said they stopped at a couple bars and drank more beer. Penny said she doesn’t remember being at Jakes (the bar where the eyewitness last saw both Penny and Sarah at around midnight). Penny admitted she was an alcoholic then and was very intoxicated. Penny and Sarah were on their way to pick up Glenda when Penny spilled some beer in her car and stopped to clean it up. Penny said Sarah wasn’t feeling well so she started walking to Glenda’s house which was about a half a block away. Penny told Detective Anderson she doesn’t know why she didn’t take Sarah to Glenda’s house but she went home after cleaning her car. Penny reminded Detective Anderson that she isn’t the type to kill anyone, she didn’t have a weapon, and she had absolutely no reason to hurt Sarah.

In the meantime, Melissa looked at the questionnaire that was given to the jury asking them about their thoughts about lesbians and violence. Melissa said, as a criminal defense attorney, she would insist that the jury not be subjected to or see the questionnaire because it is inflammatory. Melissa also spoke with Glenda who was the glue that held the case together. Glenda claimed she dated Penny for about a year but wasn’t necessarily in love with her. Glenda claimed Penny drank a lot but could still function; she just wouldn’t remember it. Glenda described Sarah as a shy, soft-hearted, and loyal friend. Glenda believed that Penny was jealous of her friendship with Sarah. Glenda admitted that Penny did in deed find her birth control pills and assumed that she was breaking up with her so she could date men again. Glenda admitted she broke up with Penny because she was way too controlling. Glenda also claimed Penny was pissed that she broke up with her. When Glenda ended it, Penny shoved her and she shoved her back and kicked her out of her house. Glenda said the look in her eyes scared the crap out of her and she began to cry. Glenda believes they have the right person and is still grieving the loss of her friend.

Detective Anderson and Melissa met with Nancy Brummer to share the results of their investigation. Nancy claimed the jury was bias because of Penny’s sexual orientation and Melissa believes she was absolutely right. Melissa said the questions asked of the jury were highly prejudicial. Penny’s close friend felt that the motive of jealousy was crap but Glenda was 100% convinced Penny was the killer. Glenda claimed the motive in this case was vengeance. Glenda declared that if Penny gets out of jail, she is moving to another state because she is scared of her; if Penny did this once, who is to say she won’t do this again? Nancy doesn’t believe Glenda and said she is a good actress. Detective Anderson told Nancy he followed up with the eye witness at the scene of the crime and said this was a problem because each and every lead needs to be taken seriously. He also shared that only one of the detectives was alive and he refused to meet with him. Melissa confirmed that there is no physical evidence tying Penny to the crime. Detective Anderson addressed the gun they believed was used in the commission of the crime and Nancy confirmed the 22 they owned had indeed gone missing. Detective Anderson addressed the autopsy photos and shared that the forensic expert did not observe any signs of struggle. It was a cold night and if someone ran towards Sarah, she definitely would have heard it. Detective Anderson deduced Sarah was shot by someone she knew or was led into the field at gunpoint.

“Circumstantial cases are a series of little things that add up until they point in one direction.” -Detective Chris Anderson, Reasonable Doubt

Nancy Brummer said there was no way her daughter would have shot Sarah in the back of the head. But Detective Anderson had some serious issues with the fact that the only person who claims Penny was in a black out that night is Penny. He spoke with a bartender who claimed that Penny appeared to be functional. Jake’s bar is significant because it is less than two miles from where Sarah’s body was found. Detective Anderson noted that Penny said she couldn’t remember being at Jake’s that night but she remembered very specific things earlier and later that night. Detective Anderson felt it was suspicious that Penny remembered everything really well that night except being at this bar. Is this a form of convenient amnesia? Melissa empathized with why Nancy felt a sense of injustice all these years. The biased questionnaire, the ignored witnesses, and the overall investigation had major problems; the evidence was highly circumstantial. Penny was the last known person to see Sarah alive that night; Penny was last seen at a bar with Sarah which is located less than two miles from where Sarah’s body was found; Penny said she can’t remember being there but does remember a lot of details earlier and after Sarah went missing; Sarah was killed with a 22 and Penny’s father owned a 22 that was now missing; Penny was a military vet who was trained to shoot guns; and Sarah wasn’t trying to run away, she didn’t struggle, and she most likely knew and trusted her killer.

Why would Penny do this? Melissa shared that she read through the police reports and noted that Penny admitted she was heartbroken when things ended with Glenda. Penny also admitted that after the break-up she wondered who Glenda was with, where she was, and what she was doing. Penny also said Glenda was in her head 24 hours a day (obsessed) and that she resented Sarah because she assumed Sarah was trying to drag her back into the straight world. On the night of March 14, 1994, Penny did what she always did. Melissa explained Penny got really drunk, the break-up was fresh, her feelings were raw, and she spent the entire night with the person she believed came between her and the woman she loved. Melissa asked, “did Penny plan to walk Sarah into the woods or was it just a horrific idea fueled by fifteen drinks? Did she remember shooting Sarah, does she remember her falling to the ground, or does she not remember anything at all?” Ironically, Penny admits that prison saved her life. Penny believes she would not have made it to thirty had it not been for prison. Penny said she turned her life around behind bars. Based on the leads Nancy provided and an independent investigation, Detective Anderson and Melissa revealed there was nothing new in the investigation that would bring Penny home. They both suggested Nancy ask her daughter the tough questions and then she will know, even 22 years later.

“The problem is that the things Penny remembers are the things that will help her and the things that she can’t remember are the things that would potentially hurt her.” -Melissa Lewkowicz, Reasonable Doubt

Source: Reasonable Doubt ‘Failure to Remember’


Twenty-one years ago a jury found Penny Brummer guilty in the murder of Sarah Gonstead. The family of Brummer has spent those 21 years working to prove her innocence. Dave Delozier reports. -Channel 3000 | News 3 (December 14, 2015)

MJFA Links:
Sarah Gonstead was Shot Execution Style in the Back of Head After a Night Out Celebrating 21st Birthday with Friend & Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer (March 14, 1994)

Related Links:
Who Killed Sarah?
Seeking justice for Penny Brummer
New Trial for Penny Brummer, Wrongfully Convicted | Petition
Penny Brummer Defense & Support Fund by Truth in Justice

1994
Sarah Gonstead Murder

1995
Reasonable Doubt by Ingrid Ricks | The Advocate

1997
State of Wisconsin v. Penny L Brummer

2003
A short history of exposing misconduct

2005
Chapter 1: A tale of three young women
Chapter 2: A hole in her story
Chapter 3: A surprise witness appears
Chapter 4: Defense sows seeds of doubt
Chapter 5: Emotional debate ends in guilty verdict
Chapter 6: Supporters of Brummer offer their theories; they say the evidence was too thin and question makeup of jury
Gift enables investigative journalism class to probe old murder case

2012
Dane Co. DA Approves DNA Testing in 1994 Killing
Wisconsin DA approves DNA testing in 1994 killing
Will DNA Save Penny Brummer?
Spring Green woman could be cleared

2013
Innocence project founder promotes cause of Madison woman convicted of murder
Did Homophobia Convict a Wisconsin Woman of Murder?

2014
A Look Back After 20 Years
A look back at a 20-year-old murder and if the right person was convicted

2015
Who killed Sarah? The trial of Penny Brummer
Group questioning conviction of Penny Brummer in 1994 death of Sarah Gonstead
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
$10,000 Reward Offered in Wrongful Conviction Case
Person of Interest Hits Wrongfully Convicted for Serving in U.S. Military
On Wrongful Convictions and Penny Brummer

2016
Penny Brummer’s fight for justice
The Lynching of a Madison Lesbian: Wisconsin’s Wrongful Conviction of Penny Brummer
Wrongful Conviction: Penny Brummer Is Innocent and Still in Prison
Richmond Crime Author Sheila Berry Takes on Wrongful Convictions Nationwide

2017
Penny Brummer convicted of murdering Sarah Gonstead, but is there Reasonable Doubt?

Books:
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Amazon
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Walmart

Video Links:
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | Amazon
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt – Investigation Discovery
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | YouTube

48 Hours Premiered ’48 Hours Cold Case: Who Killed Amy Gellert?’ on CBS (2017)


In the more than 20 years since the murder of a 21-year-old woman outside her home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, there have been a number of men investigated in connection with the case — but the crime remains unsolved. Members of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office share details with “48 Hours”‘ Erin Moriarty.

If you have information about Amy Gellert’s murder contact:
Brevard County Homicide Unit E-mail: majorcrimes@bcso.us
Call Central Florida CrimeLine: 1-800-423-TIPS

“[A tipster] overheard Dominic’s girlfriend [Julie Flounder] saying that he was possibly involved with that homicide.” Investigators then learned Kanuika had stolen a car and left the area the day after Amy’s murder. He later moved back to Pennsylvania where investigators tracked him down. “Dominic puts himself at the scene.” Kanuika claimed that he was coming back from work when he drove pass Amy’s house. “He actually stops, pulls over, and walks up to see what was going on…His story didn’t check out. He didn’t work that night…He was given a polygraph and he failed it…Dominic was in Marine Corps boot camp…and one of the things he had to do was fight with a knife.” Dominic Kanuika was [now] serving time for drug possession and robbery. -48 Hours

Related Links:
48 Hours Preview: Who Killed Amy Gellert?
48 Hours preview: Who Killed Amy Gellert? | MSN
Preview: “48 Hours” Cold Case: Who killed Amy Gellert?
Sneak peek: “48 Hours” Cold Case: Who killed Amy Gellert?
A conversation with Amy Gellert’s killer | 48 Hours
A look at possible suspects in Amy Gellert’s murder | 48 Hours
Retired detective still haunted by Gellert cold case | 48 Hours
Help catch Amy Gellert’s killer | 48 Hours
“48 Hours”: Spring break cold case
Who Killed Amy Gellert? | 48 Hours (website)
“48 Hours” cold case: Who Killed Amy Gellert?
48 Hours: Who killed Amy Gellert? | Crimesider
Who Killed Amy Gellert? Help cops solve a 23-year-old cold case
23 Years After a Fla. Woman Was Fatally Stabbed in Her Driveway, Can These Clues Crack the Case?
Who killed Amy Gellert? More than 20 years after student, 21, died protecting parents from masked knifeman, police admit they are no closer to an arrest
Torres: ’48 Hours’ brings in tips in Cocoa Beach cold case
’48 Hours’ generates 100 tips in Brevard case
Cold Case: Amy Gellert Fatally Stabbed Outside Florida Home; AWOL Marine Dominic Kanuika an Alleged Suspect in the Case, $5000 Reward (1994)

Deadly Women Premiered ‘Cash In’ on Investigation Discovery: Susan Russo Conspired to Have Navy Husband David Russo Murdered for the Life Insurance (September 30, 2016)

Preview: Susan Russo was a Navy wife who ran a tight ship. But she had a secret life, and devised a way to profit off her husband’s substantial military life insurance. -Cash In, Deadly Women (S10, E6)

Deadly Women on Investigation Discovery featured yet another military spouse who murdered because they were motivated by greed, selfishness, and sociopathic tendencies. While Navy sailor David Russo was at work at the Lemoore Naval Air Station in California, his wife was getting high on meth with her secret lover. Susan Russo didn’t like that David controlled the purse strings because he might find out that she was blowing their cash on drugs. Then one day a military advisor stopped by the house to advise them of their financial affairs and Susan learned that her husband David was worth more dead then he was alive. He had a grand total of 1 million dollars worth of Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance and other insurance policies on himself. Susan saw her way out of domestic boredom and hatched up a plan with two of her drug addicted buddies, Jason Andrews and Bobby Morris. She offered them $100 to kill her husband and promised them more later after she got her hands on the life insurance payout.

Susan Russo

Susan Russo, US Navy Spouse

On July 14, 1994, the trio striked. While David lay sleeping in his bed, the two men entered the marital home with Susan’s assistance, walked into David’s bedroom, and shot him one time in the back of the head. They then drove the body to a remote location so they could torch David and the car in an effort to destroy evidence. This plan would never come to fruition because they ran out of gas and then didn’t have enough gas to torch the car. When military personnel stopped by David’s home to see why he hadn’t showed up to work, Susan told them she didn’t know where he was and asked if she would still get his paycheck that week. Eventually David’s car and body was discovered by a local farmer. Of course investigators looked to the spouse first to determine what may have happened to David. Susan told investigators during the interview that they would find no evidence of wrong doing which of course intrigued them to probe further.

Susan Russo was a self proclaimed clean freak and cleaner by trade and was confident she had covered her tracks. But she did not account for the microscopic blood spatter on the headboard of the bed or the spent bullet casing located in the bedroom. Police charged Susan Russo and her two friends with the murder of her husband David Russo. Jason Andrews and Bobby Morris were both convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life. In 1996, Susan Russo was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Investigators described Susan as an evil, psychopathic person who manipulated her two drug addicted friends with the promises of money for more drugs. She didn’t care about David whatsoever, she only saw David as a way to cash in.

Source: Deadly Women ‘Cash In’

ID Go: The stakes are high and the chips are down when these Deadly Women decide to “Cash In.” -Cash In, Deadly Women (S10, E6)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
Susan Russo | The Injustice System
Killer sentenced “to slow death” gets life for murder of her husband
The PEOPLE v. Susan Lee RUSSO, Defendant and Appellant (2000)
People of California v. Susan Russo (2001)
Prison Inmates to Receive Prestigious Peacemaker Award
Woman convicted of husband’s murder has sentence reduced by Gov. Brown, could get parole
Sisters demand mom stay in prison after pardon from orchestrating husband’s 1994 murder
Parole Board Grants Parole to Murderer Susan Lee Russo | County of Fresno
Fresno County killer gets parole after more than 20 years
Fresno County killer, sentenced to life without parole, granted parole
Woman convicted of murdering her husband is granted parole
‘Black widow’ granted parole. She arranged the murder-for-hire of her Navy husband
Drop LWOP! | Newsletter of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Jerry Brown Getting Ready to Release Psychopath Killer from Prison
Vidak and Other Legislators Urge Governor Brown NOT to Release Convicted Murderer Susan Lee Russo
Gov. Jerry Brown decides against parole for woman dubbed a ‘black widow’
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow’
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow’
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow’
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow’
Governor denies parole for California husband killer
Navy Spouse Susan Russo Hired Drug Addicted Hitmen for $100 to Murder Husband David Russo for the Life Insurance; Sentenced to Life in Prison (July 14, 1994)
Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance is a Common Motive for Murder
Navy Wife and Mom With Secret Life Devises Plan To Have Husband Killed For Insurance Money | Investigation Discovery
Perfect Wife Plots To Have Husband Killed For Money | Investigation Discovery
Cash In | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S10, E6)
Petition: Keep Susan Russo Behind Bars

Homicide Hunter Premiered ‘Bad Blood’ on Investigation Discovery: Brandin Penza and Kevin Gooley (August 18, 2015)


A popular army vet is found bleeding to death on the cold asphalt of a shadowy parking lot -his chest littered with too many knife wounds to count. A gruesome clue leads Kenda’s team to an unlikely killer whose motive for murder is as heartless. -Homicide Hunter, Investigation Discovery 

Recently discharged Army veteran Brandin Penza was found stabbed to death in a Colorado Springs, Colorado parking lot on September 23, 1994. Apparently Brandin was on his way home when he was attacked. Detective Lt. Joe Kenda of the Colorado Springs Police Department was assigned to investigate the homicide. Lt. Kenda turned to Brandin’s friends first to learn more about him. He learned from his roommates that he had got out of the Army two weeks earlier and was only staying with friends temporarily until he moved back to Kansas to be with his girlfriend. Brandin was figuring out what he wanted to do next. He had a large group of friends in the military that he considered his family. They spent a lot of time together barbecuing and having fun. He was described as a happy-go-lucky guy who would give anyone the shirt off his back. They couldn’t think of anyone who had a motive to hurt him. His roommates informed Lt. Kenda that Brandin told them he was going out to the Rodeo Night Club. Lt. Kenda had very little evidence to work with so he turned to Brandin because his body tells a story.

Lt. Kenda discovered that Brandin Penza was stabbed 74 times. Kenda also deduced, based on where the stab wounds were located, that the killer was probably left handed. Only 10% of the world is left-handed. Kenda then ordered a K-9 unit to the scene of the crime to see if they could get a scent on their killer. Dogs can track the existence of a subject and where they may have gone. The K-9 and handler proceed about one hundred yards and then stop. It was a dead end. Kenda continues the investigation into the daylight which offers up more evidence. They found a tear drop of blood which helped them determine which way the person was going. Kenda and the team follow the trail of blood all the way to the door of one of the nearby apartments. Blood smears were present outside and inside the building and on the door where the apartment was located. They knocked on the door to find out who was behind it and they got no response. As they were about to kick the door, it opened and a scared kid in his underwear was standing there with his hands up. His name was Kevin Gooley, 21, and he was covered in blood and had injuries consistent with a knife attack. Kevin Gooley’s injuries suggested to Lt. Kenda that he was Brandin Penza’s killer.

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Kevin Gooley

Lt. Kenda asked for his signature and discovered he was left handed as well. They searched his apartment and found blood soaked cowboy boots under his bed. Lt. Kenda opened the dresser drawers and discovered they were not drawers, they were cabinets with an arsenal of weapons. Lt. Kenda arrested Kevin Gooley for the murder of Brandin Penza. Lt. Kenda interrogated Gooley to find out why he killed him. This type of stabbing usually accompanies a very close, personal relationship. Gooley claimed he didn’t even know him but ran into him on the way home after having a few drinks at the bar. He claimed he was approached by an individual (Brandin) who asked him for money and it caused him alarm. He claimed Brandin put his arm around him as if to suggest that he was hitting on him. Kenda was suspicious of his reasoning for the crime. Regardless of the reason, Gooley admitted to killing Brandin Penza. He claimed he freaked out but his claims of self defense were hollow. Most likely, Kevin Gooley had no reason why he stabbed Brandin. Lt. Kenda suspected that Gooley most likely had a psychotic episode. Facing a death sentence if convicted of murder, Kevin Gooley took a plea deal in exchange for a 32 year prison sentence.

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.


Preview | Every Body Tells Its Own Story | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery

Related Links:
Life is Random
Every Body Tells Its Own Story | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery
Bad Blood | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (YouTube)
Army Veteran Brandin Penza Stabbed 74 Times in Colorado Springs Parking Lot by Stranger; Kevin Gooley Sentenced to 32 Years in Prison (September 23, 1994)
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado

Army Veteran Brandin Penza Stabbed 74 Times in Colorado Springs Parking Lot by Stranger; Kevin Gooley Sentenced to 32 Years in Prison (September 23, 1994)


A popular army vet is found bleeding to death on the cold asphalt of a shadowy parking lot -his chest littered with too many knife wounds to count. A gruesome clue leads Kenda’s team to an unlikely killer whose motive for murder is as heartless. -Homicide Hunter, Investigation Discovery 

Recently discharged Army veteran Brandin Penza was found stabbed to death in a Colorado Springs, Colorado parking lot on September 23, 1994. Apparently Brandin was on his way home when he was attacked. Detective Lt. Joe Kenda of the Colorado Springs Police Department was assigned to investigate the homicide. Lt. Kenda turned to Brandin’s friends first to learn more about him. He learned from his roommates that he had got out of the Army two weeks earlier and was only staying with friends temporarily until he moved back to Kansas to be with his girlfriend. Brandin was figuring out what he wanted to do next. He had a large group of friends in the military that he considered his family. They spent a lot of time together barbecuing and having fun. He was described as a happy-go-lucky guy who would give anyone the shirt off his back. They couldn’t think of anyone who had a motive to hurt him. His roommates informed Lt. Kenda that Brandin told them he was going out to the Rodeo Night Club. Lt. Kenda had very little evidence to work with so he turned to Brandin because his body tells a story.

Lt. Kenda discovered that Brandin Penza was stabbed 74 times. Kenda also deduced, based on where the stab wounds were located, that the killer was probably left handed. Only 10% of the world is left-handed. Kenda then ordered a K-9 unit to the scene of the crime to see if they could get a scent on their killer. Dogs can track the existence of a subject and where they may have gone. The K-9 and handler proceed about one hundred yards and then stop. It was a dead end. Kenda continues the investigation into the daylight which offers up more evidence. They found a tear drop of blood which helped them determine which way the person was going. Kenda and the team follow the trail of blood all the way to the door of one of the nearby apartments. Blood smears were present outside and inside the building and on the door where the apartment was located. They knocked on the door to find out who was behind it and they got no response. As they were about to kick the door, it opened and a scared kid in his underwear was standing there with his hands up. His name was Kevin Gooley, 21, and he was covered in blood and had injuries consistent with a knife attack. Kevin Gooley’s injuries suggested to Lt. Kenda that he was Brandin Penza’s killer.

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Kevin Gooley

Lt. Kenda asked for his signature and discovered he was left handed as well. They searched his apartment and found blood soaked cowboy boots under his bed. Lt. Kenda opened the dresser drawers and discovered they were not drawers, they were cabinets with an arsenal of weapons. Lt. Kenda arrested Kevin Gooley for the murder of Brandin Penza. Lt. Kenda interrogated Gooley to find out why he killed him. This type of stabbing usually accompanies a very close, personal relationship. Gooley claimed he didn’t even know him but ran into him on the way home after having a few drinks at the bar. He claimed he was approached by an individual (Brandin) who asked him for money and it caused him alarm. He claimed Brandin put his arm around him as if to suggest that he was hitting on him. Kenda was suspicious of his reasoning for the crime. Regardless of the reason, Gooley admitted to killing Brandin Penza. He claimed he freaked out but his claims of self defense were hallow. Most likely, Kevin Gooley had no reason why he stabbed Brandin. Lt. Kenda suspected that Gooley most likely had a psychotic episode. Facing a death sentence if convicted of murder, Kevin Gooley took a plea deal in exchange for a 32 year prison sentence.


Preview | Every Body Tells Its Own Story | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery

Related Links:
Life is Random
Every Body Tells Its Own Story | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery
Bad Blood | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (YouTube)
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado

Navy Spouse Susan Russo Hired Drug Addicted Hitmen for $100 to Murder Husband David Russo for the Life Insurance; Sentenced to Life in Prison (July 14, 1994)

Susan Russo

Susan Russo, US Navy spouse

Deadly Women on Investigation Discovery featured yet another military spouse who murdered because they were motivated by greed, selfishness, and sociopathic tendencies. While Navy sailor David Russo was at work at the Lemoore Naval Air Station in California, his wife was getting high on meth with her secret lover. Susan didn’t like that David controlled the purse strings because he might find out that she was blowing their cash on drugs. Then one day a military advisor stopped by the house to advise them of their financial affairs and Susan learned that her husband David was worth more dead then he was alive. He had a grand total of 1 million dollars worth of Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance and other insurance policies on himself. Susan saw her way out of domestic boredom and hatched up a plan with two of her drug addicted buddies, Jason Andrews and Bobby Morris. She offered them $100 to kill her husband and promised them more later after she got her hands on the life insurance payout.

On July 14, 1994, the trio striked. While David lay sleeping in his bed, the two men entered the marital home with Susan’s assistance, walked into David’s bedroom, and shot him one time in the back of the head. They then drove the body to a remote location so they could torch David and the car in an effort to destroy evidence. This plan would never come to fruition because they ran out of gas and then didn’t have enough gas to torch the car. When military personnel stopped by David’s home to see why he hadn’t showed up to work, Susan told them she didn’t know where he was and asked if she would still get his paycheck that week. Eventually David’s car and body was discovered by a local farmer. Of course investigators looked to the spouse first to determine what may have happened to David. Susan told investigators during the interview that they would find no evidence of wrong doing which of course intrigued them to probe further.

Susan Russo was a self proclaimed clean freak and cleaner by trade and was confident she had covered her tracks. But she did not account for the microscopic blood spatter on the headboard of the bed or the spent bullet casing located in the bedroom. Police charged Susan Russo and her two friends with the murder of her husband David Russo. Jason Andrews and Bobby Morris were both convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life. In 1996, Susan Russo was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Investigators described Susan as an evil, psychopathic person who manipulated her two drug addicted friends with the promises of money for more drugs. She didn’t care about David whatsoever, she only saw David as a way to cash in.

Source: Deadly Women ‘Cash In’

Investigation Discovery:

Preview: Susan Russo was a Navy wife who ran a tight ship. But she had a secret life, and devised a way to profit off her husband’s substantial military life insurance. -Cash In, Deadly Women (S10, E6)

ID Go: The stakes are high and the chips are down when these Deadly Women decide to “Cash In.” -Cash In, Deadly Women (S10, E6)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
Susan Russo | The Injustice System
Killer sentenced “to slow death” gets life for murder of her husband
The PEOPLE v. Susan Lee RUSSO, Defendant and Appellant (2000)
People of California v. Susan Russo (2001)
Prison Inmates to Receive Prestigious Peacemaker Award
Woman convicted of husband’s murder has sentence reduced by Gov. Brown, could get parole
Sisters demand mom stay in prison after pardon from orchestrating husband’s 1994 murder
Parole Board Grants Parole to Murderer Susan Lee Russo | County of Fresno
Fresno County killer gets parole after more than 20 years
Fresno County killer, sentenced to life without parole, granted parole
Woman convicted of murdering her husband is granted parole
‘Black widow’ granted parole. She arranged the murder-for-hire of her Navy husband
Drop LWOP! | Newsletter of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Jerry Brown Getting Ready to Release Psychopath Killer from Prison
Vidak and Other Legislators Urge Governor Brown NOT to Release Convicted Murderer Susan Lee Russo
Gov. Jerry Brown decides against parole for woman dubbed a ‘black widow’
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow’
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow’
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow’
California governor won’t parole woman dubbed ‘black widow’
Governor denies parole for California husband killer
Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance is a Common Motive for Murder
Deadly Women Premiered ‘Cash In’ on Investigation Discovery: Susan Lee Russo and David Russo (September 30, 2016)
Navy Wife and Mom With Secret Life Devises Plan To Have Husband Killed For Insurance Money | Investigation Discovery
Perfect Wife Plots To Have Husband Killed For Money | Investigation Discovery
Cash In | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S10, E6)
Petition: Keep Susan Russo Behind Bars

Cold Case: Amy Gellert Fatally Stabbed Outside Florida Home; AWOL Marine Dominic Kanuika an Alleged Suspect in the Case, $5000 Reward (1994)

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On the evening of Sunday, March 20, 1994, Charlotte “Amy” Gellert was attacked by an intruder outside her residence in Cocoa Beach. She died as a result of her injuries. The intruder was described as a white male, early twenties, 5’07″ – 5’10″ tall, weighing between 165 to 185 pounds. Any persons providing information in reference to this case may be eligible for a reward up to $5,000.00. –Brevard County Sheriff’s Office

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Amy Gellert, Civilian, Florida

Related Links:
Twitter: @Justice_for_Amy
BCSO: Unsolved Homicide of Charlotte “Amy” Gellert
Who Killed Amy Gellert?
48 Hours: Who killed Amy Gellert?
48 Hours Premiered ’48 Hours Cold Case: Who Killed Amy Gellert?’ on CBS (2017)
Who killed Amy Gellert? More than 20 years after student, 21, died protecting parents from masked knifeman, police admit they are no closer to an arrest
Florida investigators hunt for unusual weapons in brutal 1994 attack, murder
Who Killed Amy Gellert? Help cops solve a 23-year-old cold case
A conversation with Amy Gellert’s killer
23 Years After a Fla. Woman Was Fatally Stabbed in Her Driveway, Can These Clues Crack the Case?
Torres: ’48 Hours’ brings in tips in Cocoa Beach cold case
Help catch Amy Gellert’s killer
Preview: “48 Hours” Cold Case: Who killed Amy Gellert?
Sneak peek: “48 Hours” Cold Case: Who killed Amy Gellert?
“48 Hours”: Spring break cold case
48 Hours Preview: Who Killed Amy Gellert?
A conversation with Amy Gellert’s killer
A look at possible suspects in Amy Gellert’s murder
Help catch Amy Gellert’s killer
Retired detective still haunted by Gellert cold case

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In the more than 20 years since the murder of a 21-year-old woman outside her home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, there have been a number of men investigated in connection with the case — but the crime remains unsolved. Members of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office share details with “48 Hours”‘ Erin Moriarty.

Sarah Gonstead was Shot Execution Style in the Back of Head After a Night Out Celebrating 21st Birthday with Friend & Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer (March 14, 1994)

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Sarah Gonstead, Madison, Wisconsin

Sarah Gonstead of Madison, Wisconsin was a victim of homicide on March 14, 1996 by what was believed to be her friend Air Force veteran Penny Brummer. Sarah was best friends with Penny’s ex-girlfriend Glenda and investigators believe that Penny killed Sarah because she was interfering with her relationship with Glenda. The motive was jealousy, revenge, and vengeance. A month before Sarah’s death, Glenda broke things off with Penny and Penny was heartbroken. Investigators learned that Sarah was shot in the back of the head execution style with a 22 handgun. The person who committed the crime was most likely someone Sarah trusted. Penny’s father owned a 22 which was missing and never recovered. And Penny was the last person to see Sarah alive on the night in question. Penny claims the two were out bar-hopping and drinking for Sarah’s twenty-first birthday. The last time she saw Sarah she was walking towards Glenda’s house; Penny went home. Penny claims she doesn’t remember being at Jake’s bar, the last bar that Penny and Sarah frequented.

Jake’s bar is only a couple miles from where Sarah’s body was located three weeks after she disappeared. Glenda told investigators she broke up with Penny because she was too controlling and obsessive about the relationship. Glenda believes Penny assumed that Sarah was interfering in the relationship when in fact she wasn’t. Sarah was straight so Penny thought Sarah was trying to turn Glenda straight. Penny was arrested eight days after Sarah Gonstead’s body was discovered and she was charged with first degree murder. She was found guilty by a jury of her peers on October 1, 1994 and sentenced to an automatic life in prison. She will be eligible for parole after serving fifty years in prison in 2045. Penny Brummer maintains her innocence to this day and her mother Nancy Brummer advocates for her daughter’s innocence and release. Glenda believes the police have the right person and she mourns for her friend Sarah was was an innocent bystander and didn’t deserve any of this. Glenda described her best friend Sarah Gonstead as shy, soft-hearted, and a loyal friend.

MJFA Links:
Reasonable Doubt Premiered ‘Failure to Remember’ on Investigation Discovery: Penny Brummer (June 21, 2017)


Penny Brummer, a military vet, is accused of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend in a jealous rage. However, Penny was so drunk that night she was in a blackout state. Can Chris and Melissa help fill in the gaps of her memory to prove her innocence? -Reasonable Doubt, Investigation Discovery


Twenty-one years ago a jury found Penny Brummer guilty in the murder of Sarah Gonstead. The family of Brummer has spent those 21 years working to prove her innocence. Dave Delozier reports. -Channel 3000 | News 3 (December 14, 2015)

Related Links:
Who Killed Sarah?
Seeking justice for Penny Brummer
New Trial for Penny Brummer, Wrongfully Convicted | Petition
Penny Brummer Defense & Support Fund by Truth in Justice

1994
Sarah Gonstead Murder

1995
Reasonable Doubt by Ingrid Ricks | The Advocate

1997
State of Wisconsin v. Penny L Brummer

2003
A short history of exposing misconduct

2005
Chapter 1: A tale of three young women
Chapter 2: A hole in her story
Chapter 3: A surprise witness appears
Chapter 4: Defense sows seeds of doubt
Chapter 5: Emotional debate ends in guilty verdict
Chapter 6: Supporters of Brummer offer their theories; they say the evidence was too thin and question makeup of jury
Gift enables investigative journalism class to probe old murder case

2012
Dane Co. DA Approves DNA Testing in 1994 Killing
Wisconsin DA approves DNA testing in 1994 killing
Will DNA Save Penny Brummer?
Spring Green woman could be cleared

2013
Innocence project founder promotes cause of Madison woman convicted of murder
Did Homophobia Convict a Wisconsin Woman of Murder?

2014
A Look Back After 20 Years
A look back at a 20-year-old murder and if the right person was convicted

2015
Who killed Sarah? The trial of Penny Brummer
Group questioning conviction of Penny Brummer in 1994 death of Sarah Gonstead
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
$10,000 Reward Offered in Wrongful Conviction Case
Person of Interest Hits Wrongfully Convicted for Serving in U.S. Military
On Wrongful Convictions and Penny Brummer

2016
Penny Brummer’s fight for justice
The Lynching of a Madison Lesbian: Wisconsin’s Wrongful Conviction of Penny Brummer
Wrongful Conviction: Penny Brummer Is Innocent and Still in Prison
Richmond Crime Author Sheila Berry Takes on Wrongful Convictions Nationwide

2017
Penny Brummer convicted of murdering Sarah Gonstead, but is there Reasonable Doubt?

Books:
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Amazon
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Walmart

Video Links:
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | Amazon
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt – Investigation Discovery
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | YouTube