Man Accused in Murder of SUNY Potsdam College Student in New York

michael snow

Mugshot/Facebook Michael Snow (l and top) and Elizabeth Howell (r)

Michael Snow is a Massena, New York, man accused of shooting SUNY Potsdam University student Elizabeth Howell to death.

“State Police have charged Michael J. Snow, 31, of Massena, NY, with one count of murder 2nd degree. He was arraigned in the town of Potsdam court and was remanded to St. Lawrence County Jail with no bail,” New York State police wrote in a news release.

Police wrote: “UPDATE: The victim has been identified as Elizabeth Howell, 21, Patterson, NY.” The murder has traumatized the SUNY Potsdam community; Howell was a promising music education student.

The motive is not clear. It’s also not clear whether Snow and Howell knew each other. Snow is in jail, according to online records.

Angela Mossow, whose brother went to high school with Snow and has known him since he was 8-years-old, said in a phone interview with Heavy that he lived “up the street from my parents with his mother. His parents are divorced. He went back-and-forth between mom and dads, but dad lived out of town. I think he’s had maybe two girlfriends his whole life and no long-term relationships because he’s creepy.”

Mossow added: “He was just a weirdo.” She had never heard of Howell before, but said he was in a class for slower students. She said the murder happened on his birthday and that he also had mental health and drug abuse issues, which he told her left him unable to work.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Howell Was Found Lying Deceased on the Side of the Road With Gunshot Wounds, Police Say

In the news release, police wrote, “The investigation is ongoing but the preliminary investigation has determined this appears to be a isolated incident.”

They say the fatal shooting occurred in the village of Potsdam.

“On February 18, 2022, at about 5:51 p.m., Potsdam Police responded to a report of an unconscious female on College Park Road in the village. Responding patrols located the 21-year-old victim lying on the side of the road with gunshot wounds. The victim was transported to Canton Potsdam Hospital where she was pronounced deceased. The identity of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin,” the news release says.

“At the request of the Potsdam Police Department, the State Police is leading the investigation into this incident. Police are asking anyone who may have information about the case to call Potsdam Police at 315-265-2121. State Police and Potsdam Police are being assisted by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office, the University Police Department at SUNY Potsdam, and federal Homeland Security Investigations.”

2. The University Says Snow Has No Affiliation With Campus

In a news release, SUNY Potsdam wrote,

New York State Police have made an arrest following their investigation of last night’s murder of SUNY Potsdam student Elizabeth Howell ’22.

State Police have charged Michael J. Snow, 31, of Massena, N.Y., with one count of murder in the second degree. He was arraigned in Potsdam Town Court and was remanded to St. Lawrence County Jail, with no bail.

SUNY Potsdam can confirm that Mr. Snow has no affiliation with the College, either as a student, employee or graduate.

Please hold Beth, along with her family and loved ones, in your thoughts and prayers this evening. The entire SUNY Potsdam community mourns her loss, and we stand together in unity to remember her.

It was not immediately clear whether Snow and Howell knew each other; the motive was not clear.

3. Snow Studied at Another SUNY Campus, According to His Facebook Page

On his Facebook page, where he has only 167 friends and doesn’t have a visible post since 2019, Snow wrote that he “went to Massena Central High School,” and “Studied at University at Albany, SUNY.”

The page says he lives in Massena, New York, is from Massena and is “single.”

The university released additional details about Howell’s background, saying,

We are deeply saddened to share that the victim of last night’s shooting was Elizabeth Howell ’22 of Patterson, N.Y., a music education student at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. We mourn Beth’s loss as one campus community, and hold her family, friends, and loved ones in our hearts at this difficult time.

There was initially a shelter on campus, but it was later lifted. They initially wrote, “New York State Police are now reporting that the victim of tonight’s shooting near the SUNY Potsdam campus has died. Potsdam Village Police were called with a report of a shooting on College Park Road around 5:51 p.m., and found a 21-year-old young woman at the scene. She was rushed to Canton-Potsdam Hospital but succumbed to her injuries, and was pronounced dead shortly before 7 p.m.”

4. Howell, a Senior and Cellist, Was Regarded as a ‘Star Student’

According to NNY360, Howell was remembered as a “star student.”

Alexandra M. Jacobs-Wilke, SUNY Potsdam’s director of public relations, told the news site that Howell, a senior, was on the honors list every semester.

“She was just a star student,” Jacobs-Wilke told the site.

“Beth was a cellist who performed with the Crane Symphony Orchestra,” Philip T. Neisser, SUNY Potsdam officer-in-charge, wrote to the campus in a communication obtained by NNY360. “She was an aspiring educator with a bright future ahead of her. Together, we — as one united campus community — honor her life and mourn her loss.”

A woman wrote on Facebook, “As a staff member at SUNY Canton my heart goes out to the staff, students and SUNY Potsdam community. When these students walk onto our campuses they become our family where we celebrate their accomplishments and help them through their hard times. My heart breaks for the parents and friends of Elizabeth Howell. May she now Rest In Peace!”

5. Snow’s Mother Graduated from SUNY Potsdam & Died Unexpectedly

Although the suspect had no ties himself to the university, an obituary indicates that Paula Snow, Michael J. Snow’s mother, was a graduate of SUNY Potsdam. She was 56 years old.

Paula Snow, who died unexpectedly in 2019, was a “1981 graduate of Massena High School and SUNY Potsdam with her Bachelors and Masters Degree in Education,” her obit says. It says she went on to be a teacher in Potsdam and to serve as a medical transcriptionist at a hospital.

The obituary says that she left behind her son “Michael of Massena.”

Mossow said she was told his mother took her own life.

It’s 30 minutes from Massena to Potsdam, New York.

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