After Weekend Controversy, Wisconsin Landlord Releases Man From Lease On Murder Scene Apartment

This morning, WKOW in Madison, Wisconsin, reported that Wisconsin Management Company had refused to let a University of Wisconsin student out of a lease a year and a half early. What was surprising about the story was that the man had found his fiancée murdered in the apartment last week. Even worse, the company wouldn’t confirm that it would replace the carpet or re-paint the walls until it had completed “further investigation” of the situation. Before we posted the story this evening, the management company had posted a press release on its website saying the whole thing was a misunderstanding and the lease has been dissolved. Download the press release here (PDF), or read it below.

Wisconsin Management Company, Inc. extends its deepest condolences to both the Zimmerman and Gonnering families. We regret how our statement on Friday was characterized. Wisconsin Management Company, Inc. takes great pride in our service and commitment to our residents. We felt it inappropriate, one week after the incident, to discuss the particulars of the lease situation until we had spoken to the families. We have since had the opportunity to speak with Jordan’s parents. After discussing what the family wanted, we have decided to release all parties from any lease obligations. Once the property is released by the police, we will do any cleaning or repairs that are necessary. We have also offered housing to Mr. Gonnering, which he will consider. Now that this situation is resolved, we hope people can focus on the actual tragedy and work towards healing and justice.
Russ Endres
Wisconsin Management Company, inc.

In the story WKOW published this morning, they said they spoke with Endres before going to press to ask him whether or not he was refusing to break the lease, and this was his response:

The president of Wisconsin Management Co., Russ Endres, says the company hasn’t even officially spoken to Gonnering yet. He says they will work with him if he calls and they have a good track record of helping students who want to break leases. 27 News asked Endres if he personally believes Gonnering should be allowed to cut ties to the apartment, and Endres said, “It’s too early to say.” He would not commit to allow Gonnering to break the lease.

We’re glad he’s come to a decision.
“Murdered Student’s Fiance Must Retain Apartment Lease” [WKOW Madison] (Thanks to Justin!)
Wisconsin Management Company
Press Release (PDF)


Edit Your Comment

  1. StevieD says:

    Another misleading news story.

    The TV station demands a comment from the entry level clerk from the management company and then runs an inflamatory news story.

    Next time, how about giving everybody a chance to do their jobs. Of course the management company must evaluate the situation. There are people that actually required do those investigations just to keep the fraud claims down. It might take 15 minutes, it might take a couple days, but it will get done.

  2. nardo218 says:

    “the *actual* tragedy”? They sound like they feel put-upon to have to deal with this trivial matter.

  3. ideagirl says:

    @StevieD: Wow, why don’t you RTFA before making inflammatory accusations?

    1. No low level clerk mentioned in article.

    2. The tip to the reporter came frofm a source inside the management company.

    3. The management knows no fraud has been commited, a girl was murdered there.

    There are other web sites you can participate in that love smarmy know-it-alls, why don’t you stick to those?

  4. EyeHeartPie says:

    I think that by “actual tragedy”, they mean the death that occurred, not some inflammatory news story designed to show the management company in a bad light. People were glossing over the death and using it to show what jerks the management was, instead of focusing on the actual news, i.e. the death.

  5. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    I hope that’s not a “Seven” head-in-the-box reference?

  6. TPK says:

    This story, and others like it (where public exposure is required before someone suddenly decides to do the right thing) illustrate a very sad state of affairs.

    It used to be that people would do the right thing simply because it was the right thing to do.

    Now it seems people do the right thing only because they are held accountable by public attention, and it suddenly becomes the prudent thing to do.

    How very sad this is.

  7. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @TPK: I agree. And this particular situation is really sickening.

  8. EyeHeartPie says:

    1. You are correct…no low level clerk was mentioned.
    2. The tip came from a source “close to Gonnering”. It seems to me that some family member or close friend was frustrated that they couldn’t get hold of the management during the weekend, and made up a story saying they refused and “reported” that “fact” to the local news.
    3. Obviously. The management never said it was to make sure no fraud had been committed. Maybe it WAS a low level clerk who answered the phone over the weekend and needed to find out from higher ups what had to be done.

  9. mgy says:

    poor guy

  10. FLConsumer says:

    Gotta love their slogan — “Over 30 years of caring”

  11. Landru says:

    @StevieD = shill

  12. @Landru: Landru – Shill accusing troll.

    Just cause someone doesnt agree with you doesnt make them a shill, it just makes you a jerk

  13. Concerned_Citizen says:

    I wish states would just pass reasonable laws on breaking leases. Sometimes it just has to be done, and it shouldn’t be a reason to take you to collections or ruin your credit. Apartment owners can just find a new renter. And if they can’t that isn’t the current renters fault.

  14. cothebadger says:

    The back story here makes me believe this guy is in the right. I’m a UW student, and Zimmerman was murdered almost two weeks ago now. He would have moved out right away for CSI and such. But I suspect he would NEVER go back there. I wouldn’t. The right thing for the property management thing to do is say, “We’re really sorry. You can have out of your lease now and rent one of our empty apartments. Your lease for next year is off, too.”

    As a student and BS graduate, I can attest that there are a lot of crooked “property management” companies downtown who will fleece people by charging high rents and keeping security deposits. This company actually probably owns fewer than the average downtown properties relative to others. We only recently (and finally) had a Student Tenant group start up, and they were the ones threatening what would have been the first renter’s boycott in 30 years (according to our district’s Alderman). What we need is for the university to offer legal help to tenants with real problems. I believe Minnesota does so, especially after one really bad house fire.

    We have one house fire death, several student rapes/assaults and two very recent, possibly related stabbing deaths in the last two years. I think we not only deserve better housing but a better crime task force… but that’s a WHOLE different story.

  15. TheDude06 says:

    A missed point was that the UW-Madison student assistance program had been authorized by the student to negotiate on their behalf, and apparently WMC refused to “make a decision” until they spoke to the student personally.

    STILL jerks

  16. morganlh85 says:

    @StevieD: But then all the other news stations would have run the story already, they lose ratings, the station loses money, and they all lose their jobs.

    That’s why TV news is NEVER reliable. It’s about ratings, NOT quality.

  17. Milstar says:

    Actually WI is working on legislation that would make it easier for renters to get out of their leases early without loosing their security deposit for cases like domestic abuse etc. The problem though is that landlords suffer when a couple don’t get a long and loose the rental income. So they would actually be the ones to loose out. Not really fair to them.

    I agree though in this case. Should have been pretty easy to let the lease go.

  18. marchhare22 says:

    Leasing agents are notorious for exploiting college students. They will squeeze every penny out because they know the students are busy and have very little money.

    I went through a nightmare with my leasing agent in college. And when they f’k up its a simple apologies and move on. If we are 1 day late with rent we have a little old lady with a notice of eviction pounding on our door the next day.

  19. s35flyer says:

    My son just finished 4 years at the University of Wisconson, living off-campus in several diff. apts very much like the one being discussed. I can tell you this I totally believe the news accounts. I have seen and dealt with the landlords in the area, they have one goal suck the blood out of every student possible and do as little as is possible becuase they know the kids will tear it up anyway. Bad situation all around.

  20. econobiker says:

    College towns are usually pretty bad about shady leasing companies…

  21. ionerox says:

    @cothebadger:U of Minnesota’s Student Legal Service is part of the Office of Student Affairs- it’s been around for many, many years.

    It should be pretty surprising that a town like Madison and a school like UW hadn’t already had an organization for tenant rights. Then again, some things at that school are just backwards.

  22. Beerad says:

    @Steve Trachsel, Ace: “Just cause someone doesnt agree with you doesnt make them a shill, it just makes you a jerk”

    Wait, is that how it works? Heh.

  23. brent_w says:


    So she was killed in his apartment?

    I’m assuming he is the prime suspect then?

  24. Buran says:

    I don’t understand why they wouldn’t replace the damaged stuff right away. Human body fluids are considered biohazards. They’re wanting this guy to live in an apartment where he’s exposed to biohazards!!?

  25. Buran says:

    @brent_w: Maybe not prime suspect but the police will at least look at him.

  26. ionerox says:

    @brent_w: it was their apartment, and he has already been cleared as a suspect.
    This is the 2nd middle-of-the-day murder involving a break-in and stabbing within a few months in that neighborhood. Cops seem to think it might be a local homeless person.

  27. cothebadger says:

    @Buran: Blood’s not usually a biohazard after it’s sat more than a few hours. After days, it’s dried and any original microorganisms (except sometimes prions and viruses) are dead. I guess one could worry about new bacteria, but there’s bacteria on everything, and your fridge is what you should be worrying about then.

    It’s kind of a moot point in all of this, anyways.

  28. @brent_w: I’m assuming he is the prime suspect then?

    I think that comment wins an award. It’s the “Most Tasteless Blaming of the Victim. Ever.” Congratulations!

  29. TheDude06 says:

    No, the boyfriend has been cleared.

    Also, madison is home of the “tenant resource center” and they are a world class housing assistance program. They helped recently pass legislation that requires PHOTOGRAPHIC proof of any damage to a rental property, before they can sucker some college student into paying for damages they didnt do. Im told thats quite unique.

  30. lesbiansayswhat says:

    I sent this story in too with a summary very similar to the one above. I went to UW-Madison and this is the epitome of the landlord greed there. It’s extreme but it’s not unusual or surprising. There are a few companies in the campus area that rent out all most of the apartments for lots of money without ever repairing or maintaining them and get away with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the murder happened because of poor building security, rapes and assaults have happened on campus because of it. They don’t return deposits because students will never win in court over potential ‘damages.’ Other companies to look out for there are Steve Brown and Ellickson Properties. I’ve personally dealt with both. The Tenant Resource Center is the only beacon of hope for renters there.

  31. wHATEver says:

    This story (while obviously tragic) reminded me of something – I’m renewing my apartment lease, and I took the time to re-read the fine print. (I do this every two years or so – the Texas Common Lease forms don’t tend to change that often.)

    According to the terms of my lease: as a single occupant renter, if I die during the period of the lease, the lease *does not terminate on my death*. Someone (the lease does not make it clear, but most likely family) has to submit in writing intent to terminate the lease after my death, and has to give the owner *30 days* notice before the lease is considered terminated.

    If my family is distraught or distracted by the process of dealing with my death and a funeral, multiple months of rent could pile up, all of which could be pursued against my ‘estate’.

    Having said all of this: the owner/manager is not bound to follow the letter of the lease, and I’m sure that many apartment buildings/complexes are willing to waive the written 30 days notice and even final rent in some cases for grieving families. It’s just yet another aspect of a non-sensical lease structure.

  32. hippldc says:

    Wisconsin Management is notorious for being a huge, money grubbing rental company that gouges students. 10 years ago I used to see a punk band on campus whose anthem song was “Don’t Rent From Wisconsin Management.” This is yet another example why.