An internal affairs investigation is underway into Vermont State Police troopers’ handling of a report that a man snuck out of a court-approved drug rehab center—allegedly to commit far worse crimes.
That man, Everett Simpson, 41, allegedly kidnapped a woman and her child from New Hampshire the next day and brought them to Vermont—where Simpson is accused of sexually assaulting the woman in front of the child.
The same day Vermont State Police launched the internal probe, Trooper Sean Brennan was suspended, with pay. Details on the reasons for the suspension were not provided by state police.
Brennan was assigned to the St. Johnsbury barracks—which handled the call about Simpson’s unapproved departure from drug rehab. Brennan has been on the force for seven years, according to Vermont State Police records supplied to necn and NBC 10 Boston following a request.
Everett Simpson snuck away from Valley Vista in eastern Vermont Friday, according to investigators. He was there on conditions set by a Vermont Superior Court judge following criminal charges unrelated to the serious federal accusations of kidnapping and sexual assault he is now facing.
Police are looking into the theft of a vehicle in Vermont that took place after Simpson left the rehab facility late Friday, which they suspect he used to travel to Manchester, New Hampshire.
Saturday, Simpson allegedly carjacked a woman and her young child at random from outside a mall in Manchester—forcing them back to Vermont in the woman’s car, where investigators say Simpson sexually assaulted the victim in front of her child.
Simpson then fled to Pennsylvania, investigators say, where he was caught and is now in custody awaiting return to Vermont to face charges in federal court.
“This is someone who’s expressing anger, hostility, power and control,” observed Norwich University criminologist Penny Shtull, describing Simpson based on her understanding from news reports and police accounts of the case. “He clearly has little empathy for both of his victims.”
While the Vermont State Police internal affairs investigation has just started, the agency has already acknowledged in a written statement that “there were additional steps that should have been taken, including seeking an arrest warrant on Friday night, Jan. 4; issuing a ‘be on the lookout’ alert for Simpson; and issuing a news release informing the public about Simpson.”
Vermont State Police declined necn and NBC 10 Boston’s request for an interview about this internal probe, but one of the state’s former U.S. Attorneys says he’s not sure anything could’ve been done differently to prevent the horrific violence in this case.
“It doesn’t mean they’re at fault,” Jerry O’Neill said of the internal affairs probe into the Vermont State Police.
O’Neill, who is now in private practice, said because the suspect is believed to have ditched one stolen vehicle in Manchester before carjacking total strangers, a tight timeline and several unknowns were working against police.
Still, O’Neill praised VSP for taking a close look at whether troopers could’ve responded more effectively to that early tip that Simpson violated a judge’s orders and left rehab.
“Let’s look back on it,” O’Neill said of the spirit of the internal affairs probe—reiterating that the investigation itself does not mean police could’ve necessarily prevented the alleged kidnapping and sexual assault that followed the departure from drug rehab. “What could we have done that might’ve made a difference, so we could’ve caught this man sooner?”
Under Vermont policy, trooper suspensions last until an internal investigation is complete.
The internal probe into the handling of the case by state police will eventually be reviewed by an independent citizens’ board.