Windsor Denies Abuse Case Claims

Windsor — Windsor police and the Vermont Department of Children and Families are denying claims made by a 69-year-old grandfather who sued them for allegedly conducting a flawed sex assault investigation that was abandoned only after he had lost custody of his grandson and his name was placed on a child protection registry.

In filings in U.S. District Court in Burlington, attorneys for the agencies say they had an obligation to investigate Ernest Simuro, and were not responsible for any harm he suffered from being forced to move out of his home, live under house arrest and face embarrassing charges that were ultimately dropped.

Simuro, in a federal lawsuit filed in February, said the investigation into his alleged sex assault of his grandson, now 9, was fueled by inaccurate statements provided by a Windsor police officer and a DCF investigator.

Attorneys for Windsor police and the DCF, which is represented by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, also argued in recent filings that they are legally immune from his lawsuit because they acted within the scope of their legal authority to investigate complaints.

Additionally, James Carroll, attorney for Windsor, said in court papers that the town is prepared to argue that, though the charges were dropped, Simuro “committed the acts.”

The case against Simuro was triggered by complaints by his daughter, Debra Pitta, who was the boy’s mother and had lost custody of him after struggling with drug addiction and being convicted of unrelated crimes.

Former Windsor police officer Linda Shedd and former DCF investigator Erin Keefe handled the inquiry.

According to Simuro’s lawsuit, Shedd asked leading questions of the boy, overlooked previous false allegations made by Pitts, and, along with Keefe, filed official paperwork that misrepresented statements that the boy made in a videotaped interview.

Simuro, an Air Force veteran with no criminal record, was charged with sex assault in 2010, and the boy was placed in foster care. A year later, in August 2011, prosecutors dropped the case after Simuro’s attorney, Wayne Young, filed several motions challenging the strength of their case, and the boy was returned to Simuro, where he currently remains.

In February, Simuro sued Windsor, DCF and Shedd, seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for 14 claims, including false arrest and malicious prosecution, unlawful seizure and gross negligence.

In a recent court filing, Kaveh Shahi, Shedd’s attorney, asked for two of the claims against her to be dismissed, but has not responded to the rest of the allegations.

Young, of Norwich, said in an interview yesterday that the responses from the defendants were expected and a normal part of the litigation process.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.