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Victim sues state of Vermont, Valley Vista following alleged kidnapping and rape

  • FILE - This undated identification file photo released Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, by the Vermont State Police shows Everett Simpson. (Vermont State Police via AP, File)



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, March 04, 2019

BURLINGTON — The 23-year-old New Hampshire woman who police say was kidnapped on Jan. 5 in Manchester and raped at a hotel in White River Junctionkidnapped on Jan. 5 in Manchester and raped at a hotel in White River Junction has sued the state of Vermont and the substance abuse facility her alleged attacker left the day before the incident.

The woman alleges the state and Valley Vista negligently responded to news that Everett Simpson walked away from the facility and that that led to her and her son’s kidnapping and her sexual assault, according to a 39-page lawsuit filed in state court in Chittenden County.

Valley Vista, a Bradford-based substance abuse treatment facility, had a court order to “immediately” notify Vermont State Police if Simpson left the facility, but it waited at least an hour and a half to do so, giving Simpson a “head-start,” the lawsuit alleges. Vermont State Police were then to “immediately” issue a warrant for his arrest, it adds.

“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 states.

Simpson allegedly kidnapped the woman, a Merrimack County resident, outside of the Mall of New Hampshire around 12:45 p.m. on Jan. 5 and drove her and her son to Vermont, where he forced her to knock on a door in an attempt to find his wife before trying to sexually assault her on the side of the road in Thetford. He then drove them to the Comfort Inn in White River Junction, where he raped her, police said.

Simpson is facing charges in both state and federal court. He has pleaded not guilty to federal kidnapping charges and has yet to be arraigned in Windsor County in the sexual assault case.

Messages left with the Attorney General’s Office and Valley Vista weren’t returned by deadline.

Simpson had been in state court shortly before the alleged kidnapping and assault on an unrelated matter stemming from a vehicle theft, high-speed pursuit and assault, and a judge reduced his bail, which was initially set at $20,000, to $3,000, the suit states. Simpson made bail and went to Valley Vista on Jan. 3.

Days after the alleged incidents, Vermont State Police issued a timeline of its involvement in the Simpson case, saying it received notice around 9:50 p.m. on Jan. 4 that Simpson had left the facility.

A trooper responded to the area and tried to locate him but was unsuccessful, so he sent an email to other troopers updating them on the Simpson matter.

Around 8 a.m. on Jan. 5, police received a report of a stolen vehicle from Newbury, Vt., and put out a “be on the lookout” alert for that vehicle, which Manchester police located unoccupied in a parking garage around 8:40 a.m. Later that day, around 4:30 p.m., Valley Vista again communicated with Vermont State Police and provided a description of Simpson so authorities could match it with surveillance photos from the location where the vehicle was found.

Simpson fled the state and Pennsylvania police took him into custody on the evening of Jan. 6.

The woman, who is represented by Anthony Carr and Michael Noonan of Shaheen & Gordon in Concord, has sued on four counts: negligence, gross negligence, voluntarily assumed duty and punitive damages. As a general practice, the Valley News doesn’t identify the victims of sex crimes.

The lawsuit not only alleges Valley Vista failed to monitor Simpson and immediately notify authorities, but claims there are other problems at the facility.

Valley Vista, or its parent company, Meridian Behavioral Health, has consistently failed to “provide sufficient staff, services, training and supplies” to adequately perform its day-to-day duties, the lawsuit alleges.

“Valley Vista was not required to admit Mr. Simpson — it chose to do so, and for profit,” the suit states. “Without civil liability, Valley Vista will be empowered to continue disregarding its duties.”

Vermont State Police acknowledged some shortfalls in its response after the incident, the lawsuit alleges, by issuing a statement that said there were “additional steps that should have been taken.”

The lawsuit asserts Simpson was considered a flight risk from the beginning and had a violent criminal past. He has several felony convictions on his record, including burglary.

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