Murder of Michelle Gardner-Quinn
Michelle Gardner-Quinn (January 28, 1985 – October 2006) was an undergraduate at the University of Vermont who was kidnapped on October 7, 2006. Her body was later found along a road in the neighboring town of Richmond on October 13.
Disappearance and murder
In the early morning hours of October 7, Gardner-Quinn was walking home in Burlington, Vermont to her campus dormitory after a night out with friends. She borrowed a cell phone from a passerby, Brian Rooney, to call an acquaintance. A jewelry store surveillance camera captured Gardner-Quinn walking north with Rooney at approximately 2:34 am. Six days later, her body was found by hikers near Huntington Gorge in Richmond, Vermont. An autopsy revealed she had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled.
At a press conference on October 13, police announced that they had found Gardner-Quinn's body and arrested Brian Rooney on separate charges unrelated to the case. Rooney, a construction worker with several prior arrests, is facing charges from neighboring Caledonia County that pertain to sexual assault and lewd conduct with a child. In addition to being the person who last saw Gardner-Quinn, Rooney was reportedly seen with cuts on his hands when he stopped at a business in Winooski several days later. On October 25, police announced that they had charged Rooney with aggravated homicide in the death of Gardner-Quinn. He pleaded innocent.
At a press meeting, Rooney's lawyer accidentally revealed confidential information about DNA evidence, which resulted in the trial going under lock-and-key.
On May 22, 2008, Brian Rooney was convicted of aggravated murder in Rutland, Vermont, by a 12-member jury. On October 17, 2008, Rooney was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Judge Michael Kupersmith admonished him, stating that: "You are the lowest of the low." Rooney expressed condolences to Quinn's family but maintained he is innocent.
In her memory
Cosmopolitan magazine featured Gardner-Quinn's story, "The Murder of a Beautiful Girl", in its February 2007 issue.
A non-profit organization, Michelle's Earth Foundation (MEF) has been founded in her memory. It is devoted to promoting youth involvement and awareness in environmentalism, about which Gardner-Quinn cared deeply.
Her parents are creating a scholarship in her name at UVM (WPTZ)
Her essay, "A Reverence For All Life", has also been published in the book, This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.
- "Guilty: Jury Convicts Rooney". Burlington Free Press.
- Judge berates student's killer, gives him life, CNN.com, October 17, 2008.
- nytimes.com, Vermont: Student’s Killer Gets Life