- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2006

BURLINGTON, Vt. — With its tree-lined sidewalks, brick fraternity houses and steady flow of automobile and pedestrian traffic, Main Street seems an unlikely place for an abduction.

Sloping down through the city’s Hill Section neighborhood toward Lake Champlain, it’s a thoroughfare between University of Vermont student residences and the bars and restaurants of downtown Burlington.

“On a normal Friday or Saturday night with warm weather, you’d see a reasonable amount of foot traffic,” said Gary Margolis, the university’s police chief.

Somehow, nobody saw what happened to Michelle Gardner-Quinn, of Arlington, Va.

Yesterday, police released still video images of the 21-year-old University of Vermont senior and the man with whom she was last seen walking as the investigation into her disappearance entered its seventh day, but they said they were “not close to an arrest.”

The man pictured in the video had become “a significant focus” of the investigation, said Police Chief Thomas Tremblay, but he declined to release the man’s identity and would not say whether he was a suspect in the disappearance.

“He still is a significant focus because we are not satisfied,” said Chief Tremblay, who said the man had been interviewed by police. “We have no evidence at this time that suggests a criminal offense. We’re not close to an arrest.”

Miss Gardner-Quinn was last seen at 2:34 a.m. Saturday walking back to campus after a night out at downtown bars with friends. Police said she was walking with a man whose cell phone she had borrowed.

Video of Miss Gardner-Quinn and the man was captured from a camera on a nearby jewelry store and posted on the Burlington police Web site (www.bpdvt.org). Police also posted still photos taken from the video camera of other people who walked past in the few minutes after Miss Gardner-Quinn was seen.

“We are seeking those people to contact us — they are not suspects,” police said on the Web site.

Miss Gardner-Quinn was reported missing Saturday night when she didn’t show up for dinner with her parents, who were visiting.

The search yesterday spanned areas east of the city in Jericho and as far as Virginia, in Richmond. Police had searched a house in Richmond earlier in the week and Chief Tremblay said of the man seen in the video with Miss Gardner-Quinn: “There is a connection to the Richmond home.” He did not elaborate.

Police also were conducting searches in two city parks along Burlington’s Lake Champlain shoreline. Chief Tremblay said police prioritized their searches based on leads that had been collected, but he would not describe what that information was.

On Wednesday, Miss Gardner-Quinn’s brother and two dozen volunteers from the university scanned the area where she was last seen looking for her green peacoat and cardigan sweater she had been wearing and the black purse she had been carrying.

Police using search dogs also fanned out through that neighborhood, but “nothing of real obvious value” was found, Chief Tremblay said.

Police have executed more search warrants but would not disclose the location of those searches.

They also have ruled out a man who tried to lure a woman into his white “Subaru-style” hatchback about the same time Miss Gardner-Quinn was last seen.

The man, whose identity wasn’t released, cooperated with police.

A police officer saw a man standing by a white Subaru and questioned him, and he told police he was in that area that night. He was interviewed by police, who think he was the one who had been the subject of the woman’s report.

Finding the car otherwise might have been a long shot. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles says 4,638 white Subarus are registered in the state.

Police also asked for help finding Miss Gardner-Quinn’s university-issued pass card and another one she may have been carrying. The so-called “Cat Cards” are used by students and staff at the university to enter secure buildings, and to buy food and other goods.

The university has turned over records from the system that tracks the use of “cards of interest” to police, Chief Margolis said.

AP reporter David Gram contributed to this report.

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