A former dean from Vermont State University died after being shot in the head while on a hike near the campus where she worked. The shooter is still at large.
Honoree Fleming, 77, a retired dean of education, was found dead on Thursday on the rail trail after hiking about a mile from the Castleton campus, police said in a statement on Saturday.
Her husband, award-winning author Ron Powers, said that the rail trail was one of her favourite walks. Ms Fleming started on the hike at around 4pm from the pavilion area at the college campus and was walking south towards Poultney, just a few miles from the New York state border.
The retired dean was then found dead at 4.30pm, with the Chief Medical Examiner concluding her cause of death was from a gunshot wound to her head in the manner of a homicide.
“Those of you who knew her know that she was beautifully named. I have never known a more sterling heart and soul than hers. She has taken far more than half my own heart and soul with her,” Mr Powers posted online Friday.
Police detectives said they have been interviewing numerous witnesses and residents in the area where the death took place and are looking at surveillance footage from the area in order to try and identify the suspected killer.
Witnesses described a white male with short red hair, approximately 5’10”, last seen wearing a dark grey t-shirt and carrying a black backpack, said police.
“There is an area-wide dragnet out for her killer,” Mr Powers wrote. “Police believe that it was random, but all possibilities remain open.”
The Vermont State University Castleton Campus wrote a statement on Facebook which said in part: “Our hearts go out to the members of our community who taught with Honoree and had her as a beloved teacher during their time at Castleton. Our deepest sympathies go to her husband, Ron, family, and friends.”
Before becoming a dean of education at VSU, Ms Fleming had also been a faculty member at Trinity College, Middlebury College, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the college explaied.
“This is an unbelievable tragedy for the Castleton campus and for all of Vermont State University,” it continued. “Honoree will be deeply missed.”
The University announced that Castleton campus students and staff are excused from classes on Monday, but the campus remained open in the morning for people to come together in support of one another.
Extra police coverage has been introduced onto the campus throughout the week.
Ms Fleming was married to the Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times best-selling author Ron Powers, who co-authored “Flags Of Our Fathers.” He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for criticism as a television-radio columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Ms Fleming died just a few days before the couple was due to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.
The Independent has contacted the Vermont State Police for further information.