Honoree died doing what she loved, though, walking along that trail, said her husband, Ron Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He took to Facebook not long after the incident happened to confirm to his friends and family what had happened.
He wrote: “I have heartbreaking news. Dear Honoree was shot and killed late Thursday afternoon as she walked along her favorite trail near the college. The killer delivered on shot – possibly two – to the side of her head and walked away. She died instantly.”
The Vermont State Police responded to the Rail Trail near Castleton University and the Castleton Campus of Vermont State University, where Honoree previously worked, in Castleton, Vermont, at about 4:30pm on Thursday, October 5, according to a press release, after another hiker found Honoree’s body and called it in.
The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington, Vermont, reported the cause of death as a gunshot wound to the side of the 77-year-old’s head after completing an autopsy, ruling the case a homicide.
And the police have a potential description for a suspect, too — officials said a witness spotted a person walking northbound on the rail trail toward Castleton University just after shots were heard.
“The witness described a male approximately 5’10”, short, dark-coloured hair, last seen wearing a dark grey T-shirt and carrying a black backpack,” the press release states. “The Vermont State Police ask anyone on the rail trail around this time who may have observed the male to call the Vermont State Police.”
They added that “the suspect is considered armed and dangerous” and urged the public to “remain vigilant and alert” for anything suspicious in the area. Anyone with information can call the Vermont State Police at 802-773-9101 or submit tips anonymously by visiting https://vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit. The police have also asked local businesses and any residents with security cameras to review the footage and submit anything they have from the early afternoon hours of October 5 to the authorities.
More information on the crime was promised as it becomes available, the statement said. It also mentioned that the trail had been reopened near where Honoree was killed.
The university released a statement regarding the killing, honouring Honoree’s legacy and her impact at the school. It said: “With deep sadness, we have learned that Honoree Fleming, Ph.D., 77, a retired Dean of Education at Castleton, was the victim of the homicide on the D&H Rail Trail in Castleton, a mile from the campus she called home. Honoree was a part of the Castleton family and was beloved by faculty, staff, and students.
“Scores of students benefited from Dr. Fleming’s teachings and research. Before she joined Castleton, she was also a faculty member at Trinity College, Middlebury College, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.”
“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,” the message concluded. “Our deepest sympathies go to her husband, Ron, family, and friends. This is an unbelievable tragedy for the Castleton campus and for all of Vermont State University. Honoree will be deeply missed.”
Following the killing, the campus ordered a shelter-in-place order, though it’s unclear whether or not that has been lifted yet. The investigation continues into the homicide — but neither the police nor Ron will rest until the killer is found and brought to justice.
On Facebook, Ron went on to say he and his son Dean are doing alright and that Dean, who suffers from schizophrenia, was continuing to take his “regular regimen meds,” which have been “keeping him stable.” He said Dean and his best friend were together, enjoying a quaint outdoor bonfire.
But Ron said he himself is “still in shock.” “There are moments when I wish to God I could cry. I will. I will post more as more details come in. And I will write more, much more, about my beloved Honoree as I am able,” he wrote. “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.”