ORWELL — An Orwell man was ordered to jail in lieu of $50,000 bail after pleading innocent in Addison County Superior Court (criminal division) on May 13 to a felony count of aggravated sexual assault on a minor.
It’s a case that has prompted Addison County prosecutors and Shoreham Elementary School officials to reach out to the families of students who might have interacted with the accused, Rein Kolts, 68. Kolts until recently was a bus driver and girls’/boys’ basketball coach at the Shoreham school.
It was on April 28 of this year that Det. Sgt. Ruth Whitney of the Addison County Unit for Special Investigations began her investigation into the Kolts case, after a 13-year-old New Hampshire girl — who is related to Kolts — came forward with allegations that she had been sexually assaulted several times during the past two years.
The girl told police on May 5 that Kolts had most recently “raped” her on April 20 — Easter Sunday — at a location in Chester, Vt., according to an investigation affidavit filed by Whitney. She also alleged that Kolts had assaulted her “numerous times over the past two years at the Kolts’ residence in Orwell, Vermont,” that affidavit states. The girl claimed the first assault took place during the summer between her fifth- and sixth-grade years. She is now in the seventh grade.
All of the alleged assaults involved intercourse, according to court records, with the most recent incident in Orwell allegedly taking place this past February.
The child’s mother told police that the girl would spend some of her vacations at the Kolts residence — sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by an older sister and at times with the whole family, according to court records. The girl’s mother said the Kolts residence was referred to as “Camp Cookie,” which has three trails leading from the home, each named for a girl (including the victim) who regularly visits, according to the affidavit.
The girl’s mother also told police that her daughter began cutting herself and spending a lot of time in her room when she started the sixth grade, according to court records.
“She advised that since (her daughter) made this disclosure, she has come out of her shell and it’s like a weight has been lifted off her,” the affidavit states.
Police said they interviewed Kolts this past Tuesday, May 13.
“Kolts advised he thought he was (at the interview) to talk about a complaint someone may have made about his job as a school bus driver,” the affidavit states. When confronted with the sexual assault allegations, Kolts initially “denied any sexual contact with (the victim). He described their relationship as very loving and he had an emotional connection with (her),” according to court records.
But police reported that Kolts admitted to a sexual relationship with the girl around a half-hour into the interview and confessed to having had unprotected sexual intercourse with the child on three occasions, according to the affidavit.
“Kolts said that he knew having a sexual relationship with (the girl) was wrong and Kolts advised us repeatedly, ‘I’m guilty, I’m a criminal and I deserve to go to jail,’” the affidavit states.
Addison County Judge Robert A. Mello presided over Kolts’ May 13 arraignment and ordered him held on $50,000 bail. Kolts, who has no prior criminal record, was taken to the Marble Valley Correctional Center following the court proceeding, according to investigators.
If convicted on the felony sex charge, Kolts faces penalties of up to 25 years in jail and up to a $50,000 fine.
Authorities and school officials want to make sure there are no other victims.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans said on Thursday. “If parents are concerned there may be information they think is important regarding Mr. Kolts and one of their children, they should call Ruth Whitney.”
Whitney can be reached at 802-388-2981.
Shoreham Elementary School Principal James R. Ross announced back on Nov. 15, 2013, that Kolts had joined the school’s mix of bus drivers. At the same time, he confirmed that Kolts had volunteered to work in the school’s K-2 basketball program.
Ross recently sent the following letter to the school community:
“Dear Shoreham Parent: I recently received a phone call from the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) indicating the Addison County Sheriff’s Department was investigating an incident involving a Bet-Cha Transit employee who drives a bus servicing Shoreham Elementary School students. The incident did not involve one of our students. The sheriff’s department indicated this employee was not to be around children pending an investigation of the incident. We immediately acted to make certain that the employee will not be transporting children during the investigation.
“As a result of the incident and arrest, a substitute bus driver will be assigned to one of the Shoreham Elementary School’s bus routes until further notice. If your child is on the designated bus route, please have your child at the assigned pick-up/drop-off spot a minimum of 5 minutes before the previously planned pick-up time. Also, please allow the substitute bus driver some additional time for drop-off, as s/he may be unfamiliar with the route.”
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.