Honoree Fleming Identified As Vermont Shooting Victim


A retired Vermont university dean was killed while she was walking on her favorite trail Thursday afternoon near the campus where she once taught.

Honoree Fleming, 77, a respected biochemist and cell biologist, was shot in the head around 4 p.m. on the Delaware and Hudson Rail-Trail near the Vermont State University Castleton campus, where she served as Dean of Education before her retirement. Her body was found about half an hour later, and witnesses described seeing a red-haired white man, approximately 5 feet, 10 inches tall, whom the Vermont State Police has named as a person of interest. He has not been apprehended, and police warned that he was considered armed and dangerous, and urged residents to be vigilant.

“We don’t have a suspect, we don’t have a motive,” Maj. Dan Trudeau, commander of the Vermont State Police’s Criminal Division, said in a news conference Monday afternoon, but noted that the agency had received more than 200 tips from the public. Investigators are specifically asking people who were walking or biking on the trail between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Oct. 5 to come forward. They are continuing to search the area with the help of the Castleton and Fair Haven police departments, New England K9 Search and Rescue, and other agencies.

Honoree Fleming was a 77-year-old retired university dean, respected biochemist and cell biologist.
Honoree Fleming was a 77-year-old retired university dean, respected biochemist and cell biologist.

Fleming’s body was found just a mile from the university, which closed its campus and issued a shelter-in-place order Friday. The university also announced Friday that additional security measures were being taken at the school, with “round-the-clock coverage” by its public safety department and local police.

This is an unbelievable tragedy for the Castleton campus and for all of Vermont State University,” interim president Michael K. Smith said in a message to students, faculty and staff. “Honoree will be deeply missed.”

Fleming was days away from celebrating her 45th wedding anniversary with her husband, Ron Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, who announced her death in a Facebook post on Friday.

“I will write more, much more, about my beloved Honoree as I am able,” Powers said. “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.”

Powers co-wrote The New York Times nonfiction bestseller “Flags of Our Fathers,” which was made into a feature film directed by Clint Eastwood in 2006. In 2017, he opened up about his and Fleming’s two sons, Kevin and Dean, and their struggles with schizophrenia, and Dean’s suicide, in the critically acclaimed “No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America.”

“I miss our conversations over wine late at night,” Powers said, addressing his wife on Facebook. “I miss just sitting and watching you talk to other people. Your lovely face came to full life and your eyes sparkled and your head tilted in ways that made me rejoice in the fact that you had wafted down from the stars to grace my life. And then Dean’s, and Kevin’s.”

In a follow-up post thanking the many people who reached out to him in the wake of Fleming’s killing, Powers wrote, “You have understood and cherished her luminous soul, and that is (part of) the reason I can tell myself that even though the brilliance of her scientific vision was not fully recognized in her lifetime, dear Honoree did not live in vain. She lifted every life that her life touched.”

Classes are scheduled to resume Tuesday at the university and the local elementary and high school, Castleton Police Chief Peter Mantello said at the news conference, but reiterated that residents should remain vigilant.

“The biggest thing is situational awareness,” he said at the news conference. “Lock your cars, lock your doors. … If you go anywhere, pair up, use the buddy system. But the biggest thing is to be observant.”


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