Indiana man arrested in connection with 1994 murder of Madison woman

An Indiana man has been arrested in connection with the murder of a Madison woman that took place 25 years ago, officials said.

During a news conference held Thursday, Madison acting Police Chief Vic Wahl said Willie L. Coleman, 52, of Indiana, has been accused of murdering 40-year-old Lula Cunnigan, of Madison, on Nov. 4, 1994.

On that date, Madison officials were sent to the 1600 block of Freeport Road on Madison’s west side just before 7 a.m. Cunnigan was found seriously injured and was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials said Cunnigan was strangled and run over by a car. Court documents indicate there were signs of sexual assault.

A man has been arrested in the homicide of Lula Cunnigan, who died 25 years ago. A DNA match helped lead to Willie Coleman, 52, who was arrested in Indiana yesterday, according to @madisonpolice @WISCTV_News3

— Madalyn O’Neill (@news3madalyn) November 21, 2019

In December 2015, court documents show the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory was able to match evidence from Cunnigan’s sexual assault kit with Coleman.

“Simply having that hit from 2015 doesn’t end the investigation or end the story,” Wahl said, adding that detectives worked diligently to investigate and prepare a case, questioning Coleman multiple times in the years since.

According to a criminal complaint, Coleman, who lived in the Allied Drive neighborhood at the time, eventually admitted to investigators that he had sex with Culligan in a van.

Coleman told investigators he had been “white boy wasted” and may have been “too rough” with her but said he had left her “fully alive.” He told a detective that an acquaintance of his who had been driving the van was “your man.”

Madison detectives traveled to Indiana after they secured a warrant for Coleman, who was arrested in Marion, Indiana, in connection with unrelated offense.

He was arrested Wednesday in Indiana and is being held on a warrant for first-degree reckless homicide. Coleman remains in custody in Indiana.

Madison police have maintained regular contact with Cunnigan’s family over the past two decades, providing them with updates and new developments on the case.

“It’s not every day that any police department is able to make an arrest in a 25-year-old homicide,” Wahl said. “It’s something that’s impactful on us as an agency and to the family.”

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