Brian L. Rooney (born June 27, 1970) is a
former construction worker who was convicted of the abduction and
murder of 21-year-old college student Michelle Gardner-Quinn, a senior
at the University of Vermont, located in Burlington, Vermont.
Gardner-Quinn's half-dressed body was found on
October 13, 2006 at the Huntington Gorge in Richmond, stuffed into a
rock crevice and covered with leaves. An autopsy revealed that she had
been sexually assaulted; cause of death was strangulation and blunt
force trauma to the head. Rooney was charged with Gardner-Quinn's
murder on October 25, 2006 when DNA evidence linked him to her.
A jewelry store security camera showed Rooney
walking with the victim on October 7, 2006 at 2:34 A.M. It has been
said that Gardner-Quinn had borrowed Rooney's cell phone to try to
reunite with friends she had been out with. According to Vermont
police, it is also said that Rooney was the last person to see her
Rooney's guilt was based largely on the strength of
DNA evidence taken from semen found inside Quinn's body, while his
lawyer argued that "two nanograms of sperm" handled by a forensic lab
with a history of sloppy work was not sufficient to convict.
Federal charges were filed against Rooney as of
1998. He is currently charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a
minor in Essex County, about 80 miles east of Burlington. He is also
charged with sexual assault on a minor and on an 18 year old woman.
Rooney is believed to have used an ether-soaked cloth to subdue and
incapacitate the woman. A former girlfriend with whom he had a child
has said that he threatened to kill her on numerous occasions.
According to court documents, Rooney is believed to have three
children with as many mothers.
Brian Rooney was found guilty of the murder of
Michelle Gardner-Quinn on Thursday, May 22, 2008.
Sentence and appeal
On October 17, 2008, Rooney was sentenced to life
in prison without the possibility of parole (under Vermont law, the
only available sentence for aggravated murder). Judge Michael
Kupersmith berated him, stating that: "You are the lowest of the low."
Rooney expressed condolences to Quinn's family but still insists that
he is innocent. Rooney is now seeking a new trial. Rooney claims the
judge gave improper instructions to the jury and that government
witnesses misled jurors about the reliability of DNA evidence. His
defense lawyer is taking advantage of an appeals process that is
automatic in Vermont murder convictions.
Rooney's lawyer, David Sleigh argued that he should
be acquitted outright because the State failed to prove that Gardner-Quinn's
death occurred at the time of her rape, which is a requirement for the
crime of aggravated murder with which he was charged. In February
2011, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that Rooney's trial was carried
out appropriately. As voted in a 3-2 decision, Rooney's sentence of
life in prison without parole will stand.
The Vermont Department of Corrections houses a
portion of their inmates in out-of-state institutions. Rooney is
currently housed at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville,
Kentucky. His inmate identification number is 18539.