Vigil planned for slain SUNY Potsdam student; the police are looking for information about the damaged vehicle


Feb. 20 – POTSDAM – Plans for a memorial for SUNY Potsdam music education major Elizabeth Howell, who was killed Friday night, are underway on campus.

A vigil is scheduled to take place on Monday.

Plans were still in the works Sunday afternoon, according to university spokeswoman Alexandra M. Jacobs-Wilke.

“We work with students who knew her best,” Ms. Jacobs-Wilke said.

Michael J. Snow, 31, of Massena, was charged Saturday with second-degree murder. He was arraigned in Potsdam City Court and returned to St. Lawrence County Jail in Canton without bail.

Snow is charged with killing Mrs. Howell, 21, of Patterson, Putnam County.

According to the university, Snow “has no affiliation with the college, whether as a student, employee, or graduate.”

State police say Snow was observed driving a gray Honda Civic bearing New York plates, KVE2731. The car has damage to the driver’s side door.

The investigation determined that the vehicle passed through Potsdam, Hopkinton, Malone, Westville, Hogansburg and Massena between 5 and 8 p.m. Friday. Anyone who may have seen Snow or the vehicle Friday is asked to contact State Police Troop B Communications at 518-873-2750.

At around 5:15 p.m. Friday, the Potsdam Village Police Department responded to a report of an unconscious woman on College Park Road behind the music school. She was found lying on the side of the road with gunshot wounds.

Ms Howell was taken to Canton-Potsdam Hospital and was pronounced dead around 7 p.m., St. Lawrence County Coroner June H. Wood confirmed Friday evening.

Ms Jacobs-Wilke said Ms Howell, a senior, made the honors list almost every semester.

“She was just a star student,” Ms. Jacobs-Wilke said.

“Beth was a cellist who played with the Crane Symphony Orchestra,” Philip T. Neisser, head of SUNY Potsdam, wrote to the campus community on Saturday. “She was a budding educator with a bright future ahead of her. Together, as a united university community, we honor her life and mourn her loss.”

There will be a special session Monday morning for faculty and staff at the College Counseling Center, Ms. Jacobs-Wilke said. The session will provide training to help faculty and staff provide support to students and themselves.

Special support group sessions will be set up Monday afternoon, for fellow Crane School of Music students and others involved in activities with Ms Howell. Advice will be available for all students.

“Even those who didn’t know her personally are deeply touched,” Ms Jacobs-Wilke said.

Long-term memorial planning is also underway, she said.

“We spoke with the family and because it’s Crane, we’ll want to do a memorial concert,” she said.

A shelter-in-place order was lifted on Friday evening, Ms Jacobs-Wilke said.

“Police have informed us that they do not believe there is an ongoing threat. And that this was an isolated incident,” she said. “University Police are offering enhanced security escorts. Students can call if they want someone to help them walk home.”

Ms Jacobs-Wilke said there will be a review of security measures.

Ms Jacobs-Wilke, who is also a Potsdam village administrator, gave her “deep thanks” to the police department for their quick action and long hours.

“It’s a trauma for the community,” she said.

A message that was delivered to the campus community late Saturday night informed students and staff that Monday classes would be canceled and other previously scheduled events and activities would be canceled or postponed.

The Hosmer Gallery in the lobby of Crane School of Music’s Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall has been set aside as a memorial space for members of the campus community. Everyone will be asked to leave flowers or other items in memory of Mrs. Howell and to sign a commemorative sign in her honour.

News of Mrs. Howell’s death became national history.

“I have requests from ABC, NBC, CNN,” Ms. Jacobs-Wilke said.

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