Burlington Police Investigate Possible Homicide; Signs of Struggle in Park Street House | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Burlington Police Investigate Possible Homicide; Signs of Struggle in Park Street House


 *** UPDATE 5:42 p.m.: Update: Burlington police have released surveillance photos of an unidentified "person of interest" in the case, and are asking for the public's help in identifying him (at right). Police do not consider this individual a suspect, but says he "may have important information related to this case." Anyone with information is asked to call the police tipline: 540-2222.

The BPD is offering a "substantial cash reward" for information "that is of material aid" in the investigation.

Meanwhile, police have confirmed the identity of the apparent homicide victim as Kathleen Smith, age 50. The cause of death is still pending. ***

Burlington police still aren't identifying the 50-year-old woman found dead in her Park Street house yesterday, but a makeshift memorial bidding farewell to "Kathleen Lady of the Lake" has sprung up on the sidewalk outside the victim's home.

The Burlington Free Press is reporting the home is owned by Kathleen M. Smith. Hand-written notes left on votive candles on the greenbelt at 154 Park St. had messages such as "Through my tears every bit of beauty reminds me of you."

At a news conference inside police headquarters this morning, Burlington Police spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Morrisson revealed that investigators found signs of struggle in the home. Morrison said the victim was found motionless on the floor at 9:30 a.m. yesterday, by a colleague who came over to see why she hadn't shown up to work. The victim was pronounced dead when emergency crews arrived.

Police are treating the death as a homicide, saying it was "highly suspicious," but the cause of death won't be determined until an autopsy is completed later this afternoon, Morrison said. Police have no information on the cause or manner of death, Morrison said, or whether the victim knew her attacker. However, Morrison said police have had contact with "numerous persons of interest."

As for the victim's identity, Morrison said, "We believe we know her name. But until her identify has been confirmed by autopsy we are not going to identify the victim. We have been in contact with the family of the probable victim."

Police are "uncertain" as to the level of risk to the community right now, Morrison said, though the department is urging the public to "be careful" and take reasonable precautions. She urged anyone with information to call a special tips hotline: 540-2222.

Peppered with questions by reporters, Morrison (pictured) couldn't reveal much more information than that. She couldn't say whether police found signs of forced entry into the home, how late for work the victim was, where inside the home she was found, whether it was linked to any other case in the region.

Burlington has dedicated at least 12 officers to investigating the homicide, Morrison said, and local police are being assisted by federal investigators and members of the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations, Vermont State Police and others.

The next media briefing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at police headquarters. We'll post updates as we get them.

Below are pictures from the makeshift memorial outside the victim's house.