‘Shocking conduct’: Judge hands down 25-year prison term in kidnapping of woman and child

FILE - This undated identification file photo released Jan. 7, 2019, by the Vermont State Police shows Everett Simpson. The Vermont man was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday, June 17, 2024, after he was convicted of kidnapping a woman and her 4-year-old son by forcing them into her car outside a New Hampshire mall and bringing them to Vermont while he was searching for his estranged wife. (Vermont State Police via AP, File)

FILE - This undated identification file photo released Jan. 7, 2019, by the Vermont State Police shows Everett Simpson. The Vermont man was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday, June 17, 2024, after he was convicted of kidnapping a woman and her 4-year-old son by forcing them into her car outside a New Hampshire mall and bringing them to Vermont while he was searching for his estranged wife. (Vermont State Police via AP, File)

The Federal Building in Burlington houses the U.S. District Courthouse and the U.S. Postal Service. (VtDigger - Bob LoCicero)

The Federal Building in Burlington houses the U.S. District Courthouse and the U.S. Postal Service. (VtDigger - Bob LoCicero) —Bob LoCicero (c)

By ALAN J. KEAYS

VTDigger

Published: 06-18-2024 6:04 PM

BURLINGTON — A judge has sentenced a former St. Johnsbury, Vt., man to 25 years in prison for kidnapping a woman and her son in New Hampshire in 2019 after he had fled from a court-ordered substance use disorder treatment program in Vermont.

“It’s shocking conduct,” Judge William K. Sessions III said Monday in federal court in Burlington as he handed down the prison term to Everett Simpson.

Simpson, 46, has had many attorneys over the years as the case against him has been pending. More recently, he represented him self at his trial last year and did so again Monday during his sentencing hearing.

A jury convicted Simpson in April 2023 after two hours of deliberations following a weeklong trial of two counts of kidnapping and two charges related to a stolen vehicle.

Federal sentencing guidelines in the case had called for a 30-year prison term. However, Sessions said during the hearing Monday he was granting Simpson’s request for a “non-guideline” sentence and imposed the 25-year term.

Sessions said Simpson “did not have much of a criminal record” prior to 2019. “Then all of a sudden this happened,” the judge said.

In addition to the federal case, Simpson still faces a rape charge that remains pending against him in state court in White River Junction for allegedly sexually assaulting the woman he was convicted of kidnapping.

Both the state and federal charges stemmed from January 2019. Simpson had been facing criminal charges related to an earlier car chase when he was released from jail on $3,000 bail so he could attend the Valley Vista treatment facility in Bradford, Vt., which he later fled, according to charging documents.

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Simpson, the charging documents stated, then stole a vehicle, abducted the woman and her 4-year-old son from a parking lot at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, and drove to White River Junction.

In Vermont, prosecutors charged, Simpson forced the woman into a hotel room and sexually assaulted her.

Simpson then left the hotel in the woman’s vehicle and was later arrested in Pennsylvania after crashing the vehicle as he tried to flee authorities who had spotted him, according to prosecutors.

Later that year, the state of Vermont settled a civil lawsuit for $400,000 filed on behalf of the woman, who is from New Hampshire, and her son. The suit contended that the state did not do enough to locate Simpson after he fled the treatment center.

“The defendant’s crimes were extraordinarily serious — both in their violent and random nature,” U.S. Attorney for Vermont Nikolas P. Kerest said in a statement following Monday’s sentencing.

“An across-the-board guilty verdict in April and today’s sentencing closes a dark period in two victims’ lives and hopefully allows their healing process to continue and provides a sense of security to them and others, knowing that the community will be protected from this defendant for many years to come,” Kerest added.

A point of contention during Simpson’s criminal trial centered on whether the woman he was charged with kidnapping went voluntarily with him or was forced to go. Simpson argued to the jury the woman had opportunities to flee and call for help but did not.

The woman maintained in trial testimony she feared running away from Simpson after the abduction because her young child was in the back seat of the vehicle.

VtDigger generally does not identify victims of sexual assault, but the woman in this case, Celia Roessler, agreed to speak publicly after attending Monday’s sentencing.

Asked on Monday about the sentence imposed by the judge, Roessler replied, “Nothing is ever going to undo what he did.”

The hearing Monday featured Simpson taking issues with several parts of a sentencing report prepared ahead of the proceeding by the federal probation office.

His disagreements ranged from the facts laid out in the report to whether certain enhancements should be applied in calculating the appropriate federal sentencing guideline in his case.

Sessions had to remind Simpson early in the proceeding that the matter before the court Monday was strictly tied to sentencing and not relitigating the trial.

“We’re not going to go over the whole conviction again,” the judge told him.

“I intend to appeal, of course,” Simpson responded.

Simpson, throughout the hearing Monday, shifted through the many notebooks he laid out in front of himself on the defense table and quickly flipped through the pages as he spoke to the judge.

“Oh man,” he said at one point to Sessions. “Give me a second. I”m a little frazzled right now.”

He then added, “I had all this prepared. I’ve been up since midnight.”

At another point, Simpson told the judge, “I’m not a person who, like, gets into trouble.”