- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A man seen on surveillance video walking with a University of Vermont student from Arlington, Va., who was later found beaten and strangled was charged yesterday in her slaying.

Police said DNA found on Michelle Gardner-Quinn’s body matched DNA from Brian L. Rooney, 36, of Richmond, Vt., a stranger who lent her his cell phone in a chance encounter after hers stopped working.

Mr. Rooney, a construction worker and father of three, killed Miss Gardner-Quinn, 21, in the course of sexually assaulting her, police Chief Thomas Tremblay said. He was charged with aggravated murder and could face life in prison.

“We’re pleased with the results, but nobody can ever feel good about the tragedy that’s occurred in our community,” Chief Tremblay said.

Mr. Rooney will be arraigned today.

Mr. Rooney, who had been identified as a prime suspect soon after Miss Gardner-Quinn’s Oct. 7 disappearance, had been held without bail on unrelated charges that came as a result of the investigation into the student’s disappearance.

Her body was found Oct. 13 near a gorge about 13 miles east of Burlington, face down, her head wedged between rock outcroppings, according to an affidavit released yesterday.

She died of strangulation and blunt force trauma and showed signs of sexual assault, according to the affidavit, which said semen found on her body matched a DNA profile developed from a blood stain on Mr. Rooney’s pants.

Mr. Rooney had cuts on his hands when he was interviewed by police but denied any involvement in the disappearance of Miss Gardner-Quinn, a nature-loving senior who had just transferred to the University of Vermont for her final year of college.

Mr. Rooney apparently was the last person seen with her before she disappeared as she walked back to campus after a night out with friends. A store surveillance video showed the two walking together up Main Street after she borrowed his phone to call friends in an effort to reunite with them.

Chief Tremblay said it wasn’t known where she was killed but that it happened between when the surveillance video showed the two together at 2:34 a.m. and when Mr. Rooney returned to his parents’ house in Richmond about 4:30 a.m.

He said it was too early to tell whether Miss Gardner-Quinn willingly left Main Street with Mr. Rooney. Her hair, skin and fingerprints were found in his Jeep, according to the affidavit.

Mr. Rooney had been held on unrelated sex charges from three different counties since Oct. 13, when Miss Gardner-Quinn’s body was found in nearby Richmond, where Mr. Rooney lives.

In court papers filed in connection with the unrelated sex charges involving other women, Mr. Rooney was described as having used chemically soaked rags to subdue women before having sex with them.

Miss Gardner-Quinn’s family, which has yet to talk publicly about her disappearance save for an Internet video appealing for her safe return, were told about the arrest earlier yesterday.

“They’re obviously still in grief, but very pleased with the efforts of all the men and women from local, state and federal agencies that worked this case,” Chief Tremblay said.

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