Michelle Gardner-Quinn

Michelle Gardner-Quinn was reported missing on Saturday, October 7, after failing to show up to a dinner date with her parents who were in town for Parents’ Weekend at the University of Vermont. She had been out with friends at a bar near campus the night before and was last seen around 2:15 am walking toward campus with a man her friends described as a “random guy”. Shortly after first hearing about the disappearance, a friend and I began discussing the reported details of the case. I chose not to write an entry because my own hopeful theory was that Michelle had gone missing voluntarily, perhaps in reaction to mounting stress in her academic and personal life. I saw no value in publicly discounting the plausible seriousness of the situation, preferring instead to keep an eye on reports and hope that Michelle would soon be found alive and well. Unfortunately, as details continue to emerge, it appears that my early speculation was wrong. I now believe that the abduction and/or demise of Michelle Gardner-Quinn is all too genuine. Burlington Police and the FBI are diligently gathering tips, collecting every grain of potential evidence, and following each lead in striving to locate the 21-year-old.

Wednesday, new information was released by the Burlington Police Department. Investigators are requesting help from the public in gathering information about a person who has become a “significant focus” of the investigation. Images captured by a jewelry store surveillance camera display Michelle walking eastbound on Main Street, in the company of the “random guy” she was reported last seen with by friends. The young man, who had earlier loaned her the use of his cell phone, is described as a thirty-something white male, 5′ 9″ to 5′ 11″ in height, weighing between 170 and 190 pounds and wearing dark blue jeans and a dark-colored zip-up fleece shirt. Police are not seeking to identify the man, but to locate anyone who may have seen him in the area that night. It appears that they are interested in determining where else this guy may have been on the night in question and whether he was seen at other locations with Michelle. In addition to the stills shown below, the Burlington Police Department has made available a segment of the surveillance video on their website. That page also contains links to press releases, photos of Michelle Gardner-Quinn, and press conference videos.

Earlier this week, police executed a search warrant at a home in Richmond, subsequently declaring that the residents thereof are not considered suspects in Ms. Gardner-Quinn’s disappearance. Neighbors described the couple in glowing terms, adding that they have “grandchildren of their own all over the place.” However, the search is indeed related to the investigation of the, as yet, unnamed man captured on camera accompanying her.

Thursday’s search spanned areas east of the city in Jericho and Richmond. Police had searched a house in Richmond earlier in the week and Tremblay said of the man seen in the video with Gardner-Quinn: “There is a connection to the Richmond home.” He did not elaborate. [Source: Rutland Herald]

Obviously, police have reason to suspect that he is involved in her disappearance and have evidence that he traveled to Richmond shortly after Michelle’s disappearance. In all likelihood, the man was identified by tracing back his number to the cell phone Michelle used to call her friend Tommy that night. The next logical step would have been to track any other calls and pings from that phone in the following days to ascertain the travels of the person of interest. The search for Michelle and any of her belongings was expanded to include Jericho, which lies along the Route 15 corridor between Burlington and Richmond. Reportedly, forensic evidence has been recovered, although police are not specifying the location of that recovery, and is currently being analyzed in a crime lab. In addition, some tip(s) or evidence has led investigators to two parks on Lake Champlain — North Beach and Oakledge — in their search for Ms. Gardner-Quinn.

Interactive Map

I have plotted the areas of interest on MSN’s Live Local maps. Click the Interactive Map link above and wait for the markers to load. Each marker has additional information that you can view by hovering your mouse cursor over the placemark. Some markers overlap and can be seen better by zooming in to street level. Please provide links to any additional articles of interest, as well as your own thoughts and theories, in the comment section.

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