(Host) The jury spent six and a half hours deliberating yesterday, and in the end they found 37-year old Brian Rooney guilty of raping and murdering UVM student Michelle Gardner Quinn.
The closely watched trial had been going on for over a week in Vermont district Court in Rutland. VPR’s Nina Keck reports.
(Keck) Michelle Gardner Quinn’s sister and mother held hands tightly as the jury filed into the courtroom and Judge Michael Kupersmith addressed them.
(Kupersmith) "Ms. Durand I understand the jury has reached a verdict? And how has the jury found Brian Rooney as to the charge of aggravated murder?"
(Keck) When the jury moderator announced that jurors had found Brian Rooney guilty, the family sagged into one another in relief. Michelle Gardner Quinn’s father leaned over and put his head on his wife’s shoulder, kissed her hand and said Michelle was vindicated.
Across the aisle, Brian Rooney showed little reaction upon hearing the verdict. He glanced at his defense attorney David Sleigh then turned and looked briefly at his mother and step father before being led out of the courtroom. Chittenden State’s Attorney T-J Donovan had nothing but praise for the prosecution.
(Donovan) "I think it was a combination of things but I think at the end , the day the DNA was overwhelmingly convincing that Brian Rooney committed this act."
(Keck) Twenty-one-year old Michelle Gardner Quinn disappeared in the early morning hours of October 7th, 2006. Her badly bruised body was found six days later. Evidence showed she was trying to meet friends when her cell phone stopped working. Running into Brian Rooney in downtown Burlington, Gardner Quinn asked to use his phone and made several calls. A DNA sample taken from her body matched Rooney’s.
Gail Fendley traveled from Virginia to watch the trial. Her son Ian had been dating Michelle and she’s known the family for years. Fendley says the trial has been exhausting, but the verdict she says does bring some closure.
(Fendley) "I think I’m relieved that the roller coaster ride of the past 20 months is over. And I didn’t believe it until I heard each juror say guilty. Until then I was just in shock that it was finally over."
(Keck) As Michelle Gardner Quinn’s parents made their way out of the courtroom they reached out to thank the prosecuting attorneys and tearfully hugged several police detectives who had been working on the case. Diane Gardner Quinn, Michelle’s mother, read a brief statement before leaving.
(Gardner Quinn) "Michelle has not been with us for 20 months as a living person, but her living spirit has been with us every day and her living spirit can be seen in all the good works that are being done in her name."
(Keck) While jurors found Brian Rooney guilty of aggravated murder, Judge Michael Kupersmith has not yet scheduled a sentencing hearing. In any Vermont criminal case involving life in prison without the possibility of parole, the case is automatically appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court.
For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland