BURLINGTON, Vt. – A Richmond man was charged Wednesday with murdering and sexually assaulting Michelle Gardner-Quinn, a University of Vermont student from Virginia whose body was found almost a week after she disappeared while walking from downtown back to campus.
Brian L. Rooney, 36, was charged with aggravated homicide, according to court papers. That's a charge that carries a mandatory life sentence. Burlington Police Chief Thomas Tremblay said Gardner-Quinn, 21, died in the course of a sexual assault.
Police said the UVM senior died from strangulation and "blunt force trauma."
Rooney had been identified as a prime suspect and was the last person to see Gardner-Quinn of Arlington, Va., alive. A jewelry store surveillance camera recorded her and Rooney walking up Main Street between downtown and the university campus at 2:34 a.m. Oct. 7, the last day she was seen.
Gardner-Quinn, who had been out on the town to celebrate a friend's birthday, had borrowed his mobile telephone to call other friends.
She was reported missing Oct. 7 when she failed to show up for a planned meeting with her parents, who were in Burlington for parents' weekend festivities.
Police said DNA samples found during an autopsy matched DNA taken from Rooney.
He's been held on sex-related charges from three different counties since the day Gardner-Quinn's body was found Oct. 13, at the Huntington Gorge in Richmond. Those charges were unrelated to the Gardner-Quinn slaying. Rooney has denied in police interviews that he had anything to do with Gardner-Quinn's disappearance.