State of Vermont settles lawsuit with NH victim in kidnapping, sex assault case

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2019 3:13:31 PM

BURLINGTON — The victim of an alleged kidnapping and sexual assault and her young son will receive $400,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing State Police of negligence.

The Vermont Department of Public Safety agreed to pay $300,000 to Celia Roessler, 24, of Merrimack County, and $100,000 to her son, according to a memorandum of understanding filed in Vermont Superior Court.

Roessler’s alleged assailant, Everett Simpson, was a convicted felon who had left a substance-abuse treatment facility in Bradford, Vt., a day after being transferred there from prison under a court order.

Simpson, 42, who has at least six convictions on his record, had been held by the Vermont Department of Corrections on charges of vehicle theft, pursuit and aggravated assault on a trooper in Lyndonville, Vt. in September 2018.

Simpson was released from a correctional facility and sent to Valley Vista, the Bradford-based substance-abuse treatment facility, on Jan. 3. The following day, he left the Valley Vista and traveled to Manchester, where authorities say the kidnapping occurred. He took Roessler and her 4-year-old son to the Upper Valley, where she was assaulted at the Comfort Inn in White River Junction, according to police.

Simpson fled and eventually was arrested in Pennsylvania.

In March, Roessler filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont and Valley Vista alleging that the facility failed to immediately notify Vermont State Police that Simpson left, and instead waited for at least 90 minutes to do so, essentially giving him a “head start” on police. The lawsuit asserted that State Police were also at fault because they failed to “immediately” issue a warrant for Simpson’s arrest as required.

“It was only because of Valley Vista and/or Vermont’s ongoing and combined failure to do the bare minimum that Mr. Simpson’s zone of danger reached to (the) plaintiffs,” the suit stated.

The lawsuit stated that both State Police and Valley Vista should have known that Simpson posed a “serious risk” to others, and that Roessler and her son endured “preventable sexual violence and trauma.”

The Valley News generally does not identify victims of sex crimes, but Roessler came forward to publicly identify herself last spring.

The state admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which was approved by a Vermont Superior Court judge in Burlington on Thursday, the news release said

“This was a horrific act committed by the perpetrator. This settlement will never fully repair the harm done. We admire the victims’ courage and hope for them a full and happy life,” the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, which represented the Department of Public Safety in the lawsuit, said in a statement on Friday.

State Police spokesman Adam Silverman declined to comment beyond the news release. Roessler’s attorney, Anthony Carr, also declined to comment.

While the settlement marks the end of Vermont’s involvement, the civil lawsuit against Valley Vista is ongoing.

Simpson faces kidnapping charges in federal court, where he has pleaded not guilty. State charges of kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault are being heard in Vermont Superior Court in White River Junction.

His lawyer recently won permission to access Roessler’s smartphone data after Simpson asserted that the encounter was consensual and that they had arranged to meet on a dating app.

Simpson is currently in custody awaiting trial in March on the federal kidnapping charges. Once Simpson’s federal trial is completed, the Windsor County State’s Attorney Office will prosecute the state charges.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or at 603-727-3216.




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