Detective takes on two decades-old unsolved murders - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Detective takes on two decades-old unsolved murders

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TOWN OF MADISON (WKOW) -- Some crimes take years for police to solve, but one detective is taking on two investigations with a deadline.

Town of Madison police are working on two unsolved homicides dating back to 1986. A few years ago, the police chief asked Detective David Bongiovani to come out of retirement and solve both cases before the town of Madison dissolves in the year 2022.

Now, Bongiovani says one of those cases is nearly closed.

"The police chief came up and said, there's going to be a day when we're no longer here, I want as many of our serious cases investigated to the nth degree so we don't turn over serious cases," Bongiovani says.

Those cases include two decades-old murders. It was two separate incidents that happened years apart, but right next door to each other on Park Street.

Bongiovani says in the 1980's there was a lot of crime in the town of Madison, covered by just two detectives. Bombarded with other trouble, the murders eventually fell to the bottom of the pile.

"That's how cases end up cold, is because people didn't have the time to look at them because of other pressing things so you do the best you can," says Bongiovani.

So he started with the older case-- Andrew Nehmer-- a college student and convenience store clerk who was killed on the job in April of 1986. That night, Nehmer was preparing for an exam. A suspect came into the store, stole money from the register and struggled with Nehmer, eventually stabbing him and escaping. Nehmer stumbled outside the store on Park Street and was found by a late night customer.

Bongiovani has spent the past four years sifting through paperwork, talking to retired detectives, and re-interviewing witnesses. He says it can be difficult to bring those memories back up for family and friends, but knows it can make all the difference.

Then, a recent breakthrough brought new light to the case. Police believe a suspect who needed money to fuel a drug addiction might have killed Nehmer. Bongiovani thinks just a few more details are needed to take the 27-year-old murder to court.

Police say Donald Braxton is a person of interest in the case. He was convicted of three armed robberies in the Madison area during the time Nehmer was killed. He currently lives in Colorado.

There are still a lot of questions in the other unsolved case: the 1992 murder of Mark Genna. Bongiovani says it's a more complicated case that went cold shortly after his death. Genna was found beaten to death in his apartment in February of 1992. There was no sign of forced entry.

"It's pretty apparent that he let in whoever got in there and he wasn't accustomed to just letting anybody into the apartment," says Bongiovani.

Police are waiting for DNA evidence to be analyzed, which could prove some suspicions in the case.

Bongiovani believes someone out there has information about both these cases.

Last month, the department announced Open Market Food Pantries, a convenience store chain, has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the Nehmer murder case. Police say they hope that compels those with the info to come forward.

"They're reluctant to get involved," Bongiovani said. "And there was a question relative to reward. that's what motivated us to seek a reward. I know who has information that would be pertinent to this case. They're just not giving it to us."

Bongiovani says if everyone works together, they can bring some closure to the Nehmer family. He says he expects to be ready to present his case to the district attorney's office soon.

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TOWN OF MADISON (WKOW) -- Unsolved murders can be a big challenge for police investigators, who have to balance their time between new and old crimes, which pushes older cases to the bottom of the pile.

One detective is picking up where other investigators left off decades ago, tackling two unsolved homicides dating back to 1986.

A few years ago, the town of Madison Police Department hired Detective David Bongiovani just to work on the two murders-- to solve the crimes before it's too late. In the year 2022, the town of Madison is dissolving, to be taken over by the city of Madison and Fitchburg. The goal: to solve the murders before that happens.

Now, Bongiovani says he's close to solving the older case: a 27-year-old murder of a convenience store worker.

In a special report tonight on 27 News at 10, Jennifer Kliese takes a look back at these decades-old crimes and the detective's recent work shedding new light on the cases.

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