‘It just never goes away’: Kelly Nolan’s family continues search for her killer, closure 15 years later

WAUNAKEE, Wis. — “Justice for Kelly” — that’s the plea from the sister of Kelly Nolan as her family continues searching for clues as to who killed the UW-Whitewater student after a night out on State Street in Madison 15 years ago.  

“I want people to remember Kelly and know that she was an amazing person and so full of life when she left this earth, and should still be here,” her sister April Buffo said.

Every year that goes by, memories with Nolan become more special to Buffo.

“Looking through these old pictures of when we were kids, we used to… we were into the Spice Girls we did like a Spice Girls play, we did — I don’t even know — so many different music performances and plays in our basement as kids,” Buffo recalled, “which I wouldn’t want anybody to see those, nor would Kelly.”  

But every year without justice adds to the pain of her loss.

“I’ll just stay awake and… just search stuff on the internet that I think will somehow lead to information that maybe I’ll put something together,” she said.

“[I] think through that night over and over in my head like, and I’m sure my mom does I’m sure my other family members do too,” she added. 

Nolan, a Waunakee native, was spending the summer of 2007 in downtown Madison. Police believe she was separated from friends on State Street — either voluntarily or by force — at around 2:30 a.m. on June 23.  

“I swear that morning when she went missing I just knew that something bad had happened to her, I just had a really, really bad feeling,” Buffo recalled.

At the time she went missing, she was wearing an emerald green scoop-necked blouse and blue jeans. She was carrying a gray-green handbag with many external pockets. 

After a 16-day search, Nolan’s body was found in the woods in the town of Dunn 10 miles away.  

Officials ruled her death a homicide by blunt force trauma to the torso with fractures.

15 years later, her killer has still never been caught.

“It just is like this piece that you want closure to. It just never goes away,” she said.

Her sister’s fate is something no one deserves, she added.

“It just kind of eats at you and I think for everybody in my family, it just adds another layer of hurt to what’s happened,” Buffo said.

Nolan’s family is offering a $25,000 reward this year for what they need most from the community — information.

“We’re just begging that you bring that information come forward and help us,” she said.

RELATED: Kelly Nolan’s killer still unknown 15 years after disappearance, family offers $25,000 reward

Police are asking anyone with information to call Madison Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 266-6014. 

They say all tips are investigated thoroughly. No piece of information or detail is considered too small or too insignificant.