A counselor at a faith-based residential housing program in Lyndon has been accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with a 14 year-old girl and fleeing the facility with the alleged victim in the middle of the night.
Katie M. Sollars, 22, of Lafeyette, Indiana, pleaded not guilty in Caledonia Superior Court Thursday to felony charges of aggravated sexual assault - repeated, sexual assault on a child under the age of 16 and second degree unlawful restraint on a victim under the age of 18. Sollars also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of operating a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent.
If convicted of all the charges, Sollars faces a possible sentence of up to 52 years in prison and $86,000 in fines.
According to its web site, The Fold is a non-profit Christian home program for at-risk teens and young adults ages 13-17.
Caledonia Superior Court
Sollars is accused of engaging in repeated sexual activity with a girl she was supposed to be counseling on multiple occasions at The Fold Family Ministries at 949 McGoff Hill Road in Lyndon. Police say that on March 16 Sollars snuck out of the facility with her alleged victim at 11:30 p.m. after disabling an alarm system on the building and stealing a company car.
According to an affidavit filed by Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Mark Potter, Sollars then sent a text message to Fold staff members explaining her actions and saying would return in the morning.
“I am leaving tonight to be faithful in my walk with Jesus,” wrote Sollars, according to the affidavit. “I am being obedient to my King and fulfilling the role I have been chosen for. I am taking (the alleged victim) as this is her fate in Christ. She is willing to take responsibility for her part in this; as am I. I know consequences are inevitable for the both of us so we will accept them with dignity and understanding. We will use the Fold car. I will pay for gas myself. I mourn this deeply, for I go not on my own accord but that of my father’s to do his work. I will take good care of her. I promise. The Lord is faithful.”
According to police, Sollars later returned the girl to The Fold after being contacted by telephone by Fold officials.
Police say the alleged victim described multiple sexual encounters with Sollars in their bedrooms at the Fold over a two week period and investigators say handwritten notes from Sollars to the girl corroborate the alleged victim’s statement.
“My heart longs for your presence,” wrote Sollars in one of the notes, according to the report. “So I know this thing called school & life are pretty important & all but…well. I don’t like them very much right now. ya see I had this stunningly beautiful BABE in bed with w/me…”
Caledonia County Deputy State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski asked the court impose bail of $100,000 saying Sollars’ lack of ties to Vermont, her refusal to meet with police during the investigation, the seriousness of the charges and possible prison sentence she is facing and the alleged unauthorized late-night flight from the Fold facility with an underage girl cast doubt on whether she could be trusted to return to court.
“It does appear that Miss Sollars is a risk of flight,” said Zaleski as she asked the court to set bail. “Her plan was to go to New Hampshire with a juvenile, VSP during the investigation attempted to contact her on a couple of different occasions (to) ask her to come in for questioning. She said she would, that did not happen.”
But Judge Robert Bent released Sollars into the custody of her mother - Tamara Ann Sollars of Lafayette, Indiana - who came to Vermont with her husband. Both were in the court room. Bent also required the Sollars to sign for a $50,000 unsecured appearence bond and ordered Katie Sollars to sign a waiver of extradition within 20 days of her return to Indiana.
Zaleski was less than pleased with the judge’s decision to release Sollars and allow her to leave the state.
“I just want to note the state’s objection for the record to her being allowed to leave the state,” said Zaleski.