On December 13, 2023

With Honoree Fleming’s killer still at large, community rallies to raise reward money 

 

 

 

 

By Tiffany Tan/VTDigger

Two months after a retired college dean was fatally shot at a Castleton rail trail — and with no suspect identified — a local resident has spearheaded raising reward money to help solve the homicide case.

Honoree Fleming, 77, a former dean of education at what was then Castleton State College, was shot in the head while walking along the D&H Rail Trail on Oct. 5. The following week, police released a sketch of a man they described as “a person of interest” in their investigation. But no suspect has since been identified in what investigators characterized as a random shooting. 

Vermont State Police spokesperson Adam Silverman said Thursday that detectives continue to investigate Fleming’s killing and that the case remains a priority. Silverman declined to provide specific updates “to avoid releasing information that could compromise the investigation.”

Meanwhile, Castleton residents, along with Fleming’s family and friends, have raised at least $23,000 in reward money for whoever can help officials arrest and convict her killer. Mark Brown, a longtime Castleton resident, started the effort last week by pledging $5,000 from his Brown’s Auto Salvage business and asking the town government to match the amount.

The Castleton Selectboard agreed to allot $5,000 for the reward fund and hopes to earmark it each year, as needed, said Town Manager Mike Jones. The effort has since drawn more pledges and donations, including from Ron Powers, Fleming’s husband, who gave $5,000 through an online crowdfunding campaign that Brown organized.

Powers, 82, who has met Brown only once, said he was surprised by Brown’s initiative and stunned by the reward amount he’d offered. “Dean and I decided on the spot that we had to match it,” Powers said in an email, referring to his 42-year-old son.

When asked whether he’d considered putting up a monetary reward to help police solve the case, Powers said his thoughts had been consumed by how to live without his life partner. She was killed on their 45th wedding anniversary.

“In the days and weeks following this atrocity I wasn’t thinking about much of anything except Honoree and bracing myself for living on without her,” Powers said. “I’m still pretty much the same. But I’m glad it’s in the works,” he said of the reward fund.

Powers said he and Fleming had walked the D&H Rail Trail together many times over the years, but that she’d gone alone on the day she was killed. “I will never stop regretting that I didn’t walk beside her to defend her or die with her,” he said on social media last week. 

Brown, who has owned Brown’s Auto Salvage since 1976, said he initiated raising the reward money because he wanted to help his community recover from the distress of knowing someone was shot to death in broad daylight at a popular walking trail.

“He stole the sense of safety and security that everyone in the town of Castleton has come to enjoy,” Brown, 65, said of Fleming’s attacker. “We want to make sure that people know that if you’re going to commit a crime in the town of Castleton, the whole community is going to get behind it. We’re not going to look the other way.”

Brown is hoping the monetary incentive will encourage someone with information about Fleming’s killer to come forward. “This is a horrible crime and someone needs to be held accountable for it,” he said. “We’re hoping that that happens soon.”

Castleton Police Chief Peter Mantello echoed state police remarks about the case’s current status, saying there have been no significant developments since the person of interest’s sketch was released in mid-October.

Powers has written about the death of his younger son, Kevin, by suicide in 2005, after struggling with schizophrenia for three years. He said he derives strength and comfort to go on each day from his surviving son, Dean, who was also diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been undergoing treatment.

“He has had more than his share of knocks in life, but he is a lion,” Powers wrote. “And he’s the biggest reason I’m not giving up.”

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