Stray rifle shot kills retired English professor in Essex

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John Reiss, 73, a retired English professor at St. Michael's College, was struck with a single shot Tuesday night in what police believe was an accidental shooting.

Several people were shooting weapons at the nearby residence when the incident occurred, according to Capt. Brad LaRose, of the Essex Police Department. Their identities weren't released.

The bullet that hit Reiss was found and sent to the Vermont Forensic Laboratory - along with the other firearms - for ballistic testing, LaRose said. Everyone involved has been interviewed, he said.

"It's just so odd how this all happened," said LaRose, who said more details would be released "when appropriate and the integrity of the investigation will not be compromised."

Reiss, the father of Vermont District Court Judge Christina Reiss, was a beloved figure at St. Michael's College in Colchester.

"It's a tragic, horrible thing," said college spokeswoman Buff Lindau. "People are stunned at the loss."

Reiss was an emeritus professor of English who also published literary criticism during his 34-year career at the college. He was named its teacher of the year in 1998 and retired in 2002, although he taught part-time in recent years.

"He was really a wonderful, rigorous teacher, and at the same time, warmhearted and witty," she said. "The best students adored him."

Reiss' other daughter, Joan Reiss Wry, is associate dean at St. Michael's.

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