Police have released a sketch of a ‘person of interest’ in relation to the murder of a retired university dean who was found dead on a Vermont trail after being shot in the head.
The body of Honoree Fleming, 77, was recovered in Castleton, about a mile south of Vermont State University, where she used to serve as dean.
Vermont State Police have confirmed the shooting was a homicide, but cannot confirm whether the the surrounding community of nearly 4,500 is also at risk.
On Wednesday, officers released a composite sketch of a ‘person of interest’ who had been spotted on the trail around the time Fleming was shot.
The sketch depicts a clean-shaven man with short, spiky hair and light eyes.
Vermont State Police released a sketch of a ‘person of interest’ with a clean-shaven face and short, spiky hair who had been seen on the trail around the time of the murder
Honoree Fleming, 77, was an accomplished researcher with a long career in academia, teaching at four schools and even serving as the dean at Vermont State University
Fleming and her husband, Ron Powers, 81, settled in Vermont with their two sons before she began her decades-long career in academia
Detectives have also been interviewing people who live near the Delaware & Hudson Rail Trail or were in the area between 3pm and 5pm Thursday.
One witness reported seeing a man walking northbound on the trail toward campus after gunshots sounded.
He was described as a 5’10” male with short red hair, wearing a dark gray T-shirt and carrying a black backpack.
Fleming was killed days before what would have been her 45th wedding anniversary with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Powers, 81.
On Facebook, Powers revealed how the first people to come upon Honoree’s body were a middle-aged husband and wife.
‘The woman ran for help,’ he wrote. ‘The man stayed with Honoree. She was clearly dead, but he stayed with her anyway. He knelt beside her and, I gather, tried to communicate to her that she was not alone.’
He vowed to meet the couple along with his son Dean and ‘say our thanks.’
Powers is a decorated writer whose 2000 book Flags of Our Father was adapted into a movie produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Clint Eastwood.
He also won a Pulitzer for his writing in 1973, becoming the first television critic to do so. This was followed by an Emmy in 1985.
Fleming was equally accomplished – and, as Powers alluded in the aftermath of her death, a frequent victim of sexism throughout her career.
He pled for members of the media to stop describing her as ‘the wife of Pulitzer prizewinner Ron Powers,’ writing: ‘It is adding to my torment.’
Honoree’s body was discovered on a rail trail about a mile south from the university campus. Police combed the area, interviewing witnesses – who described seeing a 5’10” male with red hair heading towards campus
Powers is a successful journalist and non-fiction writer who has received both a Pulitzer Prize and an Emmy Award – but he demands others recognize the accomplishments of his late wife
Fleming fought sexism throughout her career, Powers said, describing her as a ‘visionary’ who was denied tenure at Middlebury College after seven years of teaching
Before arriving at Vermont State University, Fleming was a faculty member at the now-defunct Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont; Middlebury College; and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
In addition to her role as a dean and professor, Fleming was a passionate scientist who authored many papers.
Her 40-year investigation into cell growth and movement had implications for understanding the way cancer cells divide.
Every paper she submitted to peer-reviewed journals was published, according to her husband.
‘Honoree was a consummate and visionary “lady scientist” in a world that still does not recognize the worth and achievements of lady scientists,’ he wrote.
‘Years ago Honoree was turned down for tenure at the august Middlebury College after seven years of brilliant teaching that won her the loving respect of her students.’
Powers recalled the time he spent ‘organizing her cell photographs and lab notes into papers’ after he retired.
She ‘composed and finished her decades-long cycle of lab investigations at our kitchen table,’ he wrote, recalling an image of his wife ‘in her red bathrobe…typing away.’
Powers fondly recalled his wife’s dedication to her scientific craft, even completing lab work at the kitchen table in their Carleton home
Fleming’s 40 years of bio research supports the theory of amitosis in cancerous cells and has important implications for our understanding of how the cells divide
Powers and Fleming met on a flight in 1976. They later married and had children – but both the boys were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and their youngest died by suicide in 2005
Fleming was raised in New York City. She was the youngest of four children.
Her mother hailed from a poor family in Ireland and her father died of alcoholism, according to Powers’ book No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America.
Fleming and her brothers were able to overcome the odds and earn degrees in higher education.
In 1975, Fleming earned a doctorate in biophysics from the University of Chicago.
A year later, she met Powers on a flight from New York to Chicago. The couple married and had two sons, later moving to Vermont, where Fleming started her career in academia.
In 2005, their younger son Kevin died by suicide in their home after battling schizophrenia for three years.
Their surviving son, Dean, was also diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been undergoing treatment.
He posted a tribute to his mother on Tuesday, attributing his ‘strong moral compass’ to ‘her actions and genetics.
‘I loved hearing mom laugh,’ he wrote. ‘She wore the cares of the world on her sleeve emotionally and grieved for tragic headlines, so it was so nice to hear her laugh with pure joy at dad or Stephen Colbert.’
Fleming’s grieving husband has urged media outlets not to describe Fleming as ‘the wife of Pulitzer prizewinner Ron Powers,’ as this overlooks her significant achievements in academia
The couple’s surviving son, Dean, warmly recalled hearing his mother laugh and described her as someone who ‘wore the cares of the world on her sleeve’
In a touching message posted to Facebook, Powers wrote of his late wife: ‘She has taken far more than half my own heart and soul with her’
Fleming’s death has also shaken the community at large.
On October 6, Vermont State University released a statement reading: ‘Scores of students benefited from Dr. Fleming’s teachings and research.
‘This is an unbelievable tragedy for the Castleton campus and for all of Vermont State University. Honoree will be deeply missed.’
Powers has dedicated several lengthy messages to his late wife on Facebook.
‘Those of you who knew her know that she was beautifully named,’ he wrote.
‘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.’