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Medical Examiner: Vermont Law School Professor Committed Suicide

BURLINGTON, Vt. ― The state medical examiner said a prominent Vermont Law School professor who died last month committed suicide using a handgun and her husband is saying she should not have been allowed to buy the gun following treatment for depression.

Cheryl Hanna died July 27.

Her husband, Paul Henninge, told the Valley News that his wife was twice hospitalized for treatment for depression in the nine days before her suicide at their Burlington home. He said she bought the gun the day before her death.

“It is shocking that somebody who had voluntarily admitted herself to the hospital” for psychiatric treatment could easily purchase a gun, he said.

Police would not comment on the source of the weapon.

Henninge said police told him she bought the gun at a local store.

Hanna’s depression had progressed in “a quick downward spiral,” her husband said. She sought help from her general practitioner and then starting seeing a therapist, he said. She was admitted to Fletcher Allen hospital for three days in the emergency ward, and a second time for three days in a psychiatric ward, Henninge said. She was released after she seemed to calm and showed some signs of stabilizing, he told the newspaper. She bought a gun the following day, and the next day she shot herself, Henninge said.

Fletcher Allen Health Care spokesman Mike Noble said patient confidentiality rules prevented him from commenting.

Hanna had been concerned about the impact that revealing her illness would have on her as a public figure, Henninge said. She was concerned that her adversaries were “all going to find out and take [her] down,” he said.

Hanna, who was 48, was remembered at a funeral last week as a favorite teacher at the school and an inspiration to many in Vermont’s legal community.

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