Dozens of people gathered at a Burlington restaurant on Monday night to remember a Burlington woman who was brutally raped and murdered three years ago. 31-year-old Laura Winterbottom was found dead in her car behind a home construction site in Burlington in March, 2005. In the three years since, time has done little to ease the family's pain, as they continue to struggle with the unresolved questions surrounding her death.
"How could it happen? How could it happen to someone who's innocent, who wasn't doing anything, a victim of circumstance?" said Laura's mother, JoAnn Winterbottom.
Laura Winterbottom was kidnapped, raped and then murdered by a random stranger on March 8, 2005. 33 year-old Gerald Montgomery of Burlington was eventually arrested and sent to prison for committing the crime that turned the family members' lives upside down. "There's anger, but there's sadness. The sadness is what's with me all the time. It's unrelenting," said JoAnn Winterbottom.
But the Winterbottoms gathered with family, friends and community members on Monday to celebrate Laura's life. The family held an auction in Laura's memory to raise money for scholarships that will help send area kids to the Burlington City Arts Summer Camp. Laura loved children, and just before she was murdered had applied for a full-time position teaching art at a school in Chittenden County. "She painted. She quilted. She was always doing some kind of arts and crafts project," her mother said.
Family members say it was a way to remember and honor a woman who gave so much, to everyone who knew her. "I don't want her death to overshadow who she was, and Laura was a wonderful young woman. She was my friend, too. Laura and I did a lot of things together," said Winterbottom.
Laura's mother Joann travels from her home in New York to Burlington about once a month to work with the foundation that was created to honor her daughter. That foundation will hold a march in September in Laura's name. Proceeds from the march will benefit the Women's Rape Crisis Center and Women Helping Battered Women to promote awareness about sexual violence.