Retired dean married to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer found shot to death on Vermont trail

(CASTLETON, Vt.) — A retired university dean who was married to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ron Powers was found shot to death on a Vermont trail, police said, as a manhunt is underway for the suspect.

Honoree Fleming, 77, was found dead on a rail trail Thursday in Castleton, Vermont State Police said. She died from a gunshot to the head, and the medical examiner determined the manner of death a homicide, police said.

Fleming, who lived in the town, was a retired Dean of Education and “beloved teacher” at Vermont State University Castleton Campus, the university said.

“Honoree was a part of the Castleton family and was beloved by faculty, staff, and students,” the university said in a statement. “This is an unbelievable tragedy for the Castleton campus and for all of Vermont State University. Honoree will be deeply missed.”

Prior to joining Castleton, Fleming was a faculty member at Trinity College, Middlebury College and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Fleming was the wife of Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author, the university said. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1973 for his critical writing about television in 1972 while a TV and radio columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Powers said in a Facebook post Friday night that Fleming was walking “along her favorite trail near the college” when she was shot.

“I am still in shock,” 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.”

The suspect in the fatal shooting is at large and considered armed and dangerous, police said.

Investigators are asking the public to review home and business surveillance systems to help track the suspect, Vermont State Police said on Friday.

Officers responded to a report of a deceased woman on the rail trail in Castleton around 4:30 p.m. ET Thursday, police said.

A witness reported hearing gunshots and seeing a possible suspect headed northbound on the rail trail in the direction of the Castleton campus, police said.

The suspect is described by police as being a white man, approximately 5’10” with short red hair. He was last seen wearing a dark-colored T-shirt and carrying a black backpack, police said.

There were no witnesses to the crime itself, Maj. Daniel Trudeau with the Vermont State Police told reporters on Friday.

Residents were urged by police to “remain vigilant” amid the search for the suspect.

“The suspect is in all likelihood armed and dangerous, so should be treated as such,” Trudeau said.

State police are asking the public and businesses in the Castleton area to review their surveillance systems for the suspect, from early afternoon into the evening hours on Thursday.

“We have no idea where this gentleman suspect took off,” Trudeau said.

He added, “We’re relying on the public to really help us here … We really need a good first clue.”

The Vermont State Police said Fleming started walking on the trail around 4 p.m. and was wearing a white-and-blue striped shirt, black pants and black sneakers. Police released an image of her on Saturday while asking anyone who saw her walking to contact them.

The Castleton campus closed Friday and a shelter-in-place order is in effect for those on campus due to the ongoing investigation, the university said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vermont State Police at 802-773-9101.

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