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State of Vermont, drug treatment center threatened with civil suit over sex assault case



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — An attorney representing a woman who allegedly was kidnapped outside a Manchester mall with her son and then sexually assaulted at a White River Junction hotel last month is threatening to sue the state of Vermont and an Upper Valley substance abuse treatment center.

Attorney Anthony Carr of Shaheen & Gordon said in a prepared statement late last week that he is giving the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and Valley Vista until Friday to settle claims that their response to Everett Simpson’s escape from the Bradford, Vt.-based facility on Jan. 4 led to the pair’s abductions and the woman’s sexual assault.

“We have been attempting to work cooperatively with both the state of Vermont and Valley Vista to obtain justice for this young family for the preventable trauma they have endured,” Carr wrote. “As part of those efforts, we have put both the state of Vermont and Valley Vista on notice of what we allege to be their civil liability for allowing this tragedy to take place. To date, neither entity has chosen to respond.”

Carr didn’t outline what he perceives the liabilities to be. He declined further comment, according to the statement.

Reached on Tuesday, a representative in Carr’s office said neither agency had yet responded. If they didn’t by Friday, Carr wrote, the family intends to file a lawsuit against them.

Messages left at the Attorney General’s Office and Valley Vista on Tuesday were not returned.

Simpson, 41, of St. Johnsbury, Vt., has yet to enter a plea in his federal case, which alleges he kidnapped the woman and her 5-year-old son at random outside of the Mall of New Hampshire. He remains incarcerated.

On the afternoon of Jan. 5, Simpson forced the woman and her child into their car outside of the mall and drove to a hotel in White River Junction, according to police.

Simpson allegedly forced the woman to rent a room at the Comfort Inn where he sexually assaulted her. Simpson then left the hotel room that evening, and the woman contacted police.

Simpson fled the state, and police took him into custody on Jan. 6 outside Philadelphia after a car chase and manhunt.

Days earlier, Simpson was released from Vermont Department of Corrections custody after he posted bail in an unrelated case that includes charges of vehicle theft, high-speed pursuit and aggravated assault on a trooper in Lyndonville. He was ordered to attend Valley Vista and arrived there on Jan. 3. He left the facility on Jan. 4, prompting Valley Vista to notify police as the facility was required to do.

Vermont State Police initially said they didn’t get that notification but later retracted that statement.

Shortly after the incident, Vermont State Police said additional steps should have been taken after it learned that Simpson had escaped. At the same time, the agency announced that state police had launched a “formal investigation,” according to the agency.

Simpson has a hearing on Friday in his federal court case in U.S. District Court in Burlington.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.