Chief discusses lack of leads

Castleton Police Chief Peter Mantello meets with The Spartan.

After nearly a month since the murder of former Castleton University Dean Honoree Fleming, Castleton Police are still seeking answers. 

“There wasn’t a whole lot of physical evidence found on the trail,” explained Castleton Chief of Police, Peter Mantello, in a sit-down interview with The Spartan last week. 

After hundreds of tips in the first week, and over a hundred received since the witness sketch, Mantello said they still aren’t any closer to determining a suspect. 

However, when asked if he thinks students should be worried for safety, he replied, “I don’t. But I would never say 100 percent.” 

He advises people to use what is known as “yellow code awareness,” which means to “Be alert. But don’t let fear grip you.” 

Fleming was 77 when she was killed on the trail while taking her daily walk. 

Currently, Mantello said police are examining cell-phone usage in the area and evidence from the lab. He said dozens of investigators have been assigned to assess camera footage, work with witnesses who provided information for the sketch, and evaluate tips and reports of suspicious people. 

“The hardest part with a case like this is usually within the first 48 to 72 hours you have evidence linking to a person of interest,” said Mantello. “The longer it goes, the harder it is.” 

The lack of evidence is particularly shocking due to the weather that week. Temperatures were in the high 70s and Mantello said the 4 to 4:30 p.m. timeframe of the murder is usually a very active time on the trail. 

State Police sketch of Rail Trail suspect.

“You would’ve thought we’d have more witnesses,” though he said the fact that the college students were on October Break was a big factor. 

Mantello revealed that police recovered no bullet from scene and therefore have nothing to check for ballistics. He said police do, however, have an idea of the caliber of gun, but that hasn’t been announced. The last public information released was the sketch of a person of interest witnessed on the trail shortly after the Oct. 5. 

Mantello said there are several theories developed about the murderer, but he said they really are not sure whether it was a targeted effort or a random act and he said some of the theories he’s hearing from people are outlandish, what he describes as “like reading a novel.” 

“Everybody wants to help. Everybody wants to be a detective,” said Mantello, adding that at times that can actually make the investigation a bit more challenging.

He shared an instance where Rutland City had made an arrest, and word spread that they had arrested the murderer in Fleming’s case. This was, of course, not true. 

“That’s where you got to be careful with social media,” he said. 

 Mantello added that this is one of the hardest cases he’s ever worked on, especially in a community that he’s so familiar with, being a Castleton State College graduate of 1983. 

“Even myself, I went out there last week and I walked part of the trail, looking for something maybe they missed. It’s one of those things that just eat at you,” he said. 

He also said the case may not be solved for months or years, unless they receive a sudden piece of evidence pointing to a suspect, what they refer in the police field as a “smoking gun.” 

Sometimes evidence or witnesses may appear months down the line, like when a person meets someone in another town or state, and hears something that clicks into place. 

Despite the present stagnancy, Mantello is confident the case will get solved, but “it may take longer than people want.” 

He shared his final message to the killer, saying, “It’s a matter of time before you get caught. And you’re going to get caught.” 

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