Arlington Woman's Disappearance Considered Suspicious
POSTED: 9:32 am EDT
October 9, 2006
UPDATED: 10:55 am EDT October 11, 2006
BURLINGTON, Vt. -- The FBI and Vermont
National Guard are joining the search for a missing University of
Vermont senior from Arlington, Va., who disappeared early Saturday
Federal agents and National Guard pilots met Tuesday at Burlington
police headquarters with local police, state police detectives and sex
crimes investigators in the search for 21-year-old Michelle
Gardner-Quinn of Arlington.
Burlington Police Chief Thomas Tremblay said all
available resources are being focused on the search.
"Over the past 24 hours, we have received a number
of helpful leads that have sent the investigation in a specific
direction, though we all are still requesting information from the
public to ensure that all investigative avenues are appropriately
pursued," Tremblay said in a news conference on Tuesday. "We remain
hopeful that Michelle will be found safe as soon as possible."
Gardner-Quinn went out Friday with a group of
friends to celebrate a friend's 21st birthday at several downtown
Burlington bars, police said. She apparently decided to walk back to her
dorm at about 2 a.m. Saturday. No one has seen her since, police said.
"She's out of place with no logical explanation for
being out of place," Detective Kim Edwards of Burlington police said
Monday. "At this point, we do not believe she left on her own free
Gardner-Quinn's parents became suspicious when she
did not call them Saturday morning as she had promised. Her mother,
Diann Quinn, went to her dorm and knocked on the door, but no one was
On Tuesday, Gardner-Quinn's father made a tearful
plea for his daughter's safe return.
"I beg of everyone that hears this broadcast that
if they know anything at all about where my daughter Michelle is today
or where she might have been on Saturday morning -- Friday night,
Saturday morning -- that they tell us instantly," John Quinn said.
"We have many detectives working on the case 'round
the clock," Edwards said. "We've been here all night and today. We're
following a bunch of leads, following up to include or exclude people or
Police previously said that one lead they were
pursuing involved a man in a white, Subaru-style hatchback who
reportedly tried to offer a woman a ride home around 20 minutes after
Gardner-Quinn was last seen. Officials don't know whether that man was
involved in the disappearance of the senior.
Police said they have spoken with a man people saw
Gardner-Quinn leaving with early Saturday and he is not a suspect in her
Friends described Gardner-Quinn as kind, caring and
responsible. They said they were very worried.
"She's not the type of person who would just
disappear," friend Tammy Lang said.
"This is highly out of character," Tremblay said.
"And given the nature of the information we have at this point and time
-- the time of the evening with the fact that she hasn't been in contact
with family and friends during this school visit by her family -- is why
we've characterized this as highly suspicious."
The worry was shared by UVM officials.
"We're obviously very concerned. We have a student
that nobody has seen or heard from going on 48 hours now," university
spokesman Enrique Corredera said on Sunday. "We're hoping by some chance
it's some kind of miscommunication or misunderstanding that will allow
the possibility that she's fine."
University of Vermont President Daniel Fogel said
in a campus-wide e-mail that police and security patrols had been
increased on campus and in dormitories and all "campus life safety
systems" had been tested and found to be operating.
"As this very serious situation continues to
unfold, I write to express both the University's distress about an
apparent threat to one of our own, and our firm resolve to do all we can
to assist the ongoing investigation, support the family, and keep our
community fully informed," Fogel wrote.
Gardner-Quinn is described as 5 feet 8 inches tall
and 135 pounds. She has shoulder-length brown hair and a piercing in her
nose, Burlington police said in a news release. She was last seen
wearing a gray coat, a green cardigan sweater and a light blue T-shirt.
Gardner-Quinn attended Woodlawn High School in
Arlington, where she excelled in soccer and earned a scholarship to
Maryland's Goucher College. She later transferred to American University
and then the University of Vermont.
About 150 people turned out for a candlelight vigil
at the university Tuesday. One sign read, "I Am Scared," and another one
read, "Somebody saw something. Spread the word. We want Michelle Back."
"It's sad," said friend Abby Carpenter, 20, of
Greenwich, Conn., crying as she held a lighted white candle. "I wish
they could find her."
Copyright 2006 by nbc4.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
By Jack Kramer
Oct 11, 2006
Michelle Gardner-Quinn, a 21-year-old senior attending the
of Vermont, vanished in the early morning hours of Saturday,
October 7. Volunteers from the University of Vermont are searching hills
surrounding the campus today for Gardner-Quinn as Michelle is still missing.
"We still remain hopeful Michelle will be located, "said Police Chief Thomas
Michelle was last seen at around 2:15 AM on Main Street in Burlington,
walking back to her dorm room alone. She was on her way back to campus after
celebrating a friend's 21st birthday, reports AMW.Com.
According to officials, there is no indication that Michelle left on her own
Police are still seeking more information on a man in his 20s driving a white
Subaru-type hatchback who was seen trying to lure another woman into his car
near where Gardner-Quinn was last seen 20 minutes earlier. A composite sketch of
that man is in the works, Tremblay said.
Michelle is 5 feet 8 inches tall, and approximately 135 pounds. She has a
stud piercing in her nose and was last seen wearing a gray peacoat, green
cardigan sweater, a light blue t-shirt, and a black Puma
with white straps.
Chief Tremblay also confirmed that police on Tuesday searched a house in
nearby Richmond that is home to the man last seen with Gardner-Quinn in downtown
Burlington around 2:15 a.m. Saturday.
"It should be stressed that this is one avenue of investigation that is being
pursued at this time and we remain open to all possibilities and continue to ask
for the public's help in generating leads," police said in a statement. "No one
associated with the Richmond address should be a considered a suspect in a crime
at this time. At this stage in a complex case of this nature we are focused
primarily on finding Michelle and bringing her home safely. Secondary to that,
if a crime was committed it is important for us to identify anyone that may be
involved in Michelle's disappearance but also to eliminate innocent persons from
Her parents, who were visiting for Parents Weekend from Arlington, Va.,
reported her missing after she failed to meet them Saturday.
Posted 10/12/2006 5:30 PM
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — As the investigation into
the disappearance of a University of Vermont senior entered its sixth
day, police on Thursday released still video images of the woman and the
man she was last seen walking with, saying he is a "significant focus"
of the investigation.
Michelle Gardner-Quinn, 21, of Arlington, Va.,
was last seen Saturday shortly after 2:30 a.m. walking back to campus
after a night out at downtown bars with friends. Police said she was
walking with a man whose cellphone she had borrowed.
Police Chief Thomas Tremblay said investigators
had questioned the man and searched a home near Richmond. He declined to
identify him and would not say whether he was a suspect.
"He still is a significant focus because we are
not satisfied," Tremblay said. "We have no evidence at this time that
suggests a criminal offense. We're not close to an arrest."
Police on Thursday requested information from
anyone who may have seen them together. The images were from a camera on
the building of a nearby jewelry store.
Gardner-Quinn was reported missing Saturday night
when she didn't show up for dinner with her parents, who were visiting.
Police searched elsewhere but would not disclose
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
University of Vermont student's body found
Updated 10/13/2006 10:44 PM ET
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The body of a University of Vermont
student was found along a rural road Friday, and police said they were
questioning a man who lent her his cellphone on the night she vanished nearly a
Michelle Gardner-Quinn's body was discovered near a
popular swimming spot 13 miles east of Burlington, Police Chief Thomas Tremblay
The 21-year-old senior had become separated from her
friends when she borrowed Brian Rooney's phone to call them as she walked up
heavily traveled Main Street, which runs between downtown and the campus.
Rooney, 36, of Richmond, has been the focus of the
investigation since he was recorded on a jewelry store surveillance camera with
her at about 2:30 a.m., Tremblay said. He has not been charged in
Gardner-Quinn's case, Tremblay said.
Tremblay's investigation led to Rooney's arrested on
unrelated charges of sex abuse in two other Vermont counties.
He was charged with sexual assault in Caladonia County,
80 miles north of Burlington, and with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child
in neighboring Essex county, where Rooney previously lived, officials said.
Gardner-Quinn was reported missing Saturday after she
failed to show up for a planned meeting with her parents, who had been in town
for parents' weekend.
Tommy Lang, 21, a University of Vermont senior who grew
up with Gardner-Quinn in Virginia, said Friday that nothing seemed amiss when
she called him from the man's cellphone just before her disappearance.
"She sounded completely fine and normal and exactly the
way she did when she left us," Lang said. "There wasn't anything that made me
worry or made me suspicious that anything was going on."
Lang said he called the number Gardner-Quinn had used and
spoke to a man.
"He really didn't tell me a whole lot. He basically said
he saw her walking up the hill toward the dorms and that's about it," Lang said.
As Vermont State Police searched the Huntington Gorge
swimming hole, authorities had cordoned off at least half a block in a
residential Burlington neighborhood several blocks south of where Gardner-Quinn
was last seen. They were concentrating on a stately, three-story, red brick
home, where there has been construction on an addition.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
Article published Oct 7,
events to mark anniversary of student's death
BURLINGTON – There's a small, makeshift memorial to Michelle Gardner-Quinn next
to the fountain on the University of Vermont green, but few students lounging
outside on a warm fall day this week paused to notice the images of the student
who was killed a year ago this weekend.
The dichotomy seems to fit the campus mood.
No one has forgotten Gardner-Quinn, or her violent, tragic death. The things the
21-year-old Arlington, Va., woman held dear are being commemorated with a week
of activities and remembrances, there's been a focus on student safety and a
number of practical measures have been taken to protect students. But the campus
is moving on.
"Burlington is a really safe city," freshman Kaitlin Heffernan, 18, of Bristol,
said while sit-ting on the green with friends. "But you always make sure you go
out with a group."
The university is making it possible for people to commemorate Gardner-Quinn's
death in their own way.
"As with anything else, (we're) really taking a true tragedy and such a loss and
trying to be reflective and intentional about not only carrying on Michelle's
legacy, but also really doing all that we can do to make UVM as safe as possible
for our students," said Annie Stevens, UVM assistant vice president for student
The first event, a raffle to raise money for a scholarship in Gardner-Quinn's
memory, was held on Friday. On Wednesday, there will be a night of remembrance.
On Friday there will be a candlelight march from downtown Burlington to the
campus, the same route Gardner-Quinn was to have taken the night she
Next Saturday there will be what is being called the First Annual Michelle
Gardner-Quinn Memorial Hike. It will be also be used as a fundraiser, for the
Michelle Gardner-Quinn Memorial Fund for Environmental Studies.
On a practical level, Gardner-Quinn's death has prompted a series of changes in
the way UVM and local police prepare for and react to possible abductions.
"We are very progressive in terms of our safety. We've had a police department
for years, we've had blue lights, we installed camera systems, we're not
trailing anyone," said UVM Police Chief Gary Margolis.
"When something as tragic as Michelle happens, you've got to stop and look again
and ask yourself, 'what are we not doing that we could be doing?" he said.
Partly as a result of Gardner-Quinn's death and the April shootings at Virginia
Tech that left 32 people dead, UVM installed a new campus-wide emergency
notification system, due to be rolled out later this month, Margolis said.
UVM has made a deal with local taxi companies to allow students to pay for a
ride with a campus ID and debit card, Margolis said.
Across campus, students have been looking for unlocked doors or unlighted areas,
said Ben Porter, a 20-year-old senior from Burlington and member of the student
"I think this has really changed the way people think about safety," Porter
Meanwhile, Brian Rooney, the 37-year-old Richmond man charged with sexually
assaulting and then killing Gardner-Quinn after he loaned her his cell phone on
Burlington's Main Street, is awaiting trial, possibly before the end of the
Rooney is charged with aggravated murder. He is also is facing unrelated
aggravated sexual assault charges that grew out of the search for Gardner-Quinn.
If convicted of aggravated murder, Rooney will be sentenced to life in prison
without the possibility of parole.
Gardner-Quinn, a committed environmentalist, was a senior, but she was in her
first year at UVM. She transferred so she could join the environmental studies
Gardner-Quinn was reported missing last Oct. 7 after she didn't return to her
dorm following a night out with friends in downtown Burlington. A surveillance
camera on a downtown jewelry store recorded Gardner-Quinn and Rooney walking
together up Main Street toward the UVM campus.
After a high-profile search and police investigation, Gardner-Quinn's body was
found Oct. 13 next to the Huntington Gorge in Richmond. Police say she had been
sexually assaulted and died of blunt force trauma and strangulation.
Gardner-Quinn's death and her commitment to the environment has reached across
In a YouTube video, singer Sheryl Crow, actress Meg Ryan and Sarah Ferguson, the
Duchess of York, are pictured holding a portrait Gardner-Quinn and reciting
parts of an essay Gardner-Quinn submitted to a class two days before her death.
"And I believe that my daughter can still change the world," Gardner-Quinn's
mother, Diane Quinn, said in the video.
Accused killer Brian Rooney goes on trial in
Rutland District Court Tuesday in what has become one of the region's mostly
highly publicized murder cases in recent memory, the rape and killing of
University of Vermont senior Michelle Gardner-Quinn in October 2006.
Jurors will be chosen in the trial of 37-year-old Rooney, who has pleaded
not guilty to aggravated murder in the death of Gardner-Quinn.
Wptz.com and NewsChannel 5 will be following the trial closely and have
compiled a visual and written account of the event leading up to the trial.
Check back in here and on NewsChannel 5 for daily trial updates.
Recent Legal Proceedings
On April 30, a judge denied a request by Brian Rooney's attorney, David
Sleigh, to be taken off the case. The judge said there is no reason he
should be allowed to quit.
He said, "Nothing convinces me that Mr. Sleigh should be relieved of his
responsibility in this case."
Sleigh had written, "There has been an irrevocable breach of the
attorney/client relationship which adversely impacts my ability to advocate
in his best interests."
Rooney had told the judge in court at the beginning of April, "I feel from
the beginning, obviously I've been railroaded by the system." He also said,
"I haven't had a chance to review everything for trial. I feel that the
matter is being rushed." Judge Michael Kupersmith said he believes both
sides are ready for trial.
Michelle Gardner-Quinn's Disappearance
Gardner-Quinn's parents reported her missing Oct. 7, 2006. Police said
the 21-year-old was supposed to meet them for lunch that afternoon, and when
she didn't show up, they knew it just wasn't like her.
It was parents weekend at UVM and her parents were visiting from Virginia.
She had just transferred to UVM that semester.
Police originally said Gardner-Quinn left Church Street early Saturday
morning to meet up with friends at an apartment near the Ski Rack on Main
Street. She never reached the apartment.
Missing persons posters plastered the campus in the days following, as
police and friends scoured the area for any sign of Gardner-Quinn.
The Vermont National Guard and 50 investigators from the FBI joined the
On Oct. 13, almost exactly a week after Michelle Gardner-Quinn was last
seen, hikers found her body in the town of Richmond near the Huntington
That night and in the days following, family and friends held vigils and
memorials for the UVM student, mourning her loss.
Burlington police said they learned of a man named Brian Rooney within four
hours of their investigation, through cell phone records.
Rooney was then a 36-year-old construction worker from Richmond and the
father of three daughters.
Police said they questioned Rooney at his parents' home in Richmond the next
night and decided to put him on surveillance the day after.
On Oct. 12th, four days after Gardner-Quinn disappeared, police released a
surveillance photo taken outside a jewelry store in Burlington. It showed
Gardner-Quinn walking up Main Street with a man officials later confirmed to
be Rooney. Police said he let her borrow his cell phone.
That Friday, when police announced hikers had found the college senior's
body, they said they had arrested Rooney on unrelated sexual assault
According to police, at one point in the investigation, Rooney had told
investigators, "I really don't know what happened. Honestly, I don't
remember that night ... If I did this, I deserve to die."
Investigators also said Rooney told them he was too drunk to remember what
had happened that night.
After his arrest, a close friend spoke out on his behalf, saying, "I've
never been given any reason to suspect anything other than he's a great
person and he would help anyone out if he could."
His parents also spoke out in his defense, saying, "As a parent, we love our
son to death and we can't imagine anything happening or him doing anything
But Rooney's former father-in-law spoke out, saying he was "the scum of the
Almost two weeks after Gardner-Quinn vanished, The Associated Press reported
that a DNA blood sample taken from Rooney's jeans matched the blood of the
slain UVM student.
The Life of Michelle Gardner-Quinn
Gardner-Quinn is being remembered for her strong environmental ethic and her
commitment to making a difference on the issue of climate change.
Several days before her death, the 21-year-old wrote an essay called "This I
Believe" and submitted it to her environmental studies class.
Gardner-Quinn started the essay saying, "I believe in upholding reverence
for all life. I believe that humanity has a responsibility to the earth and
to the life that we share our experience with."
A filmmaker got wind of the essay and persuaded prominent actresses,
musicians, even royalty to bring it to the screen.
The film debuted at the Live Earth concert in New York City in July. It
received more than 32,000 views on YouTube.
In memory of Gardner-Quinn, is also an organization called
Michelle's Earth Foundation.
Its mission is "to facilitate the role of the community, especially youth,
girls, and minorities who are vastly under represented in the sciences, in
community-level efforts towards creating a healthy, sustainable habitat for
humans and nature."
There is also an
online memorial to Gardner-Quinn with pictures, video and memories.
It features the full text of a poem about the 21-year-old, describing her as
the most concerned citizen, kindest friend, most engaging classmate and most
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