Suspect in Vermont student slaying charged

Brian Rooney
Brian Rooney appears in court in Burlington, Vt., on Oct. 19. Rooney was the last person seen with Michelle Gardner-Quinn, 21, before she was found dead.Alison Redlich / Pool via AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man seen on surveillance video walking with a college student who was found beaten and strangled a week later was charged Wednesday with murder.

Police said DNA found on Michelle Gardner-Quinn’s body matched DNA from Brian L. Rooney, 36.

Rooney had been identified as a primary suspect in the 21-year-old Arlington, Va., woman’s death. He was the last person seen with her before she disappeared around 2 a.m. on Oct. 7 after leaving a bar in Burlington to walk back to the University of Vermont campus. A store surveillance video showed the two walking together.

Gardner-Quinn died of strangulation and “blunt force trauma,” police said in an affidavit filed in court. The official charge against Rooney, aggravated homicide, indicates murder during sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. If convicted, he would face a mandatory life sentence.

Gardner-Quinn, who had been out on the town to celebrate a friend’s birthday, had borrowed Rooney’s mobile telephone to call other friends.

She was reported missing Oct. 7 when she failed to show up for a meeting with her parents, who were in Burlington for parents’ weekend festivities.

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

Court papers previously filed in the case indicated Rooney had denied having anything to do with Gardner-Quinn’s disappearance when police interviewed him.