(Host) The main suspect in the kidnapping and homicide of a UVM student was in Vermont District Court Thursday afternoon. Brian Rooney was arraigned on two charges unrelated to Michelle Gardner-Quinn’s death.
(Attorney Bill Norful) “And on the two counts of sexual assault and inciting, procuring or hiring to commit a felony, enter a plea of ‘not guilty’.”
(Host) Rooney is accused of repeated sexual assaults on his girlfriend during the four years they were together. Rooney, who’s 36, began seeing the woman when she was 17 years old. Police also allege that the unemployed construction worker attempted to have his former girlfriend killed after their relationship ended a year ago.
Rooney said nothing during his brief appearance in court. He’s being held without bail. Earlier this week, Rooney was also charged in District Court in Saint Johnsbury on other unrelated charges. He’s accused of sexual assault and lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor.
The evidence that led to both sets of charges, all several years old, was uncovered during the investigation into Gardner-Quinn’s disappearance. Gardner-Quinn was last seen walking alone with Rooney at 2:30 in the morning on October 7 in downtown Burlington. Her body was discovered a week later near Huntington Gorge in Richmond. Rooney has not been charged with any crimes relating to her death, but he’s the primary suspect.
After the arraignment in Chittenden County, Attorney General William Sorrell said there’s a tension in sexual assault and abuse cases that makes them challenging.
(Sorrell) “And the advocates – they want to work with law enforcement, but they want to help with the women who’ve gotten to the point of coming forward and seeking outside assistance. And very often, victims just want to be protected, they don’t want to involve law enforcement and go through public proceedings. And so there is a tremendous tension sometimes. Would law enforcement like to hear about more of these cases? Yes.”
(Host) Rooney could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if he’s found guilty of the most recent charges.