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Burlington man charged with murder in death of woman found at Champlain Street Park

Claude Mumbere, 29, was arrested Monday and charged with second-degree aggravated murder, the Burlington Police Department said Tuesday. He is accused of killing Kelley Cusson, 31, also of Burlington.

BURLINGTON — A Burlington man has been charged with murder in the death of a woman at Champlain Street Park earlier this month, the Burlington Police Department said Tuesday.

Claude Mumbere, 29, is accused of killing Kelley Cusson, 31, also of Burlington. He was arrested Monday and charged with second-degree aggravated murder, the department announced during a press conference on Tuesday. He is being held without bail.

Mumbere was arraigned in Chittenden County Superior criminal court in Burlington Tuesday morning. According to an affidavit written by Detective Corporal Krystal Wrinn, police were initially called around 10:30 a.m. on July 7 for a report of a woman bent over in the back of the park.

During the press conference on Tuesday, Acting Lieutenant Michael Beliveau confirmed that school children at the park initially spotted something “suspicious in the area.” An adult investigated further and found the body before alerting police.

Police determined the death was suspicious and treated it as a homicide, Beliveau said. They believe Cusson was killed in the park. Detectives were able to identify Mumbere after finding evidence left behind at the scene, police said, including an identification card belonging to his father, a Four Loko can with Mumbere’s fingerprints and a shoe sole that matched a shoe Mumbere was wearing when arrested.

The 31-page affidavit shows that between the time of Cusson’s death and Mumbere’s arrest, at least 10 other people were interviewed by Burlington police to establish a timeline of Cusson’s activities on the night of her death. Video surveillance near the scene showed Cusson and Mumbere walking together the night of the alleged murder.

Police allege that Cusson suffered a violent death which involved strangulation and that her body showed signs of sexual assault. While no sexual assault charges have been filed against Mumbere, Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George said on Tuesday her office could still bring those charges but they are awaiting the final autopsy report from the medical examiner.

“There is a mountain of work that still needs to be done to build this case, because we want to make it, again, as strong as we can,” Beliveau said.

Many details of the alleged crime, including the nature of the relationship between Cusson and Mumbere, were not discussed by police, who cited their ongoing investigation.

Mayor Miro Weinberger spoke during the press conference and called Cusson “a valued member of our community.”

“If what we knew about who she was and how she died stopped there, this would be a terrible tragedy,” Weinberger said. “Unfortunately, we also know that she died in a violent way, which makes her death intolerable.”

According to an obituary, Cusson had three children.

“She was a fierce protector of her family and loved ones, loving hard and enjoying life harder,” the obituary reads. “Kelley was led down a rough and dangerous path that would, unfortunately, take her from us. But without a doubt, she died loving her children with every ounce of her heart.”

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