The Long Island woman beheaded in a gruesome murder Tuesday night was a respected and beloved professor at Farmingdale State College, school officials have confirmed.
Patricia Ward taught language arts at the school for 28 years, spokesman Patrick Calabria said in a statement.
"We are in shock," Calabria told the New York Post. "The staff in her department is teary-eyed. We are providing counseling to the staff who need it. It’s a very sad day. A lot of people are taking it very hard."
WABC reporter NJ Burkett tweeted a photo of the victim earlier today:
— NJ Burkett (@njburkett7) October 29, 2014
Calabria told New York Newsday that Ward was "well-liked, well-known and well-respected."
Police are investigating a link between Ward's murder and the suicide of a man law enforcement believe to be her son.
Witnesses said the suspect, who is in his 30s, dragged his mother's body out of a Farmingdale apartment and kicked her head across the street. Police said the suspect then committed suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming LIRR train.
Farmingdale Police Detective Michael Bitsko told Newsday that the son "[had] a drug problem." It is not yet clear if he was under the influence when he allegedly committed the murder.
Some horrified witnesses told the New York Daily News that they initially thought that the decapitated body was a tasteless Halloween prank.
“The body’s feet were at the curb, the shoulders were at the middle of the street. The head was across the street,” Jack Imperial, who saw the scene from a cab, told the newspaper. “I’ve seen some gruesome stuff in my years of living... but nothing like this. I didn’t expect to see something like this, especially not out here.”