Former Williston cop pleads guilty to domestic violence

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 5:09 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A former Williston police officer has pleaded guilty to one charge of domestic assault and three charges of unlawful mischief. The incidents happened last September, the same month he stopped working for the department. Now, the survivor of the abuse is speaking out.

Authorities say Timothy Oliver broke his girlfriend’s fingers, damaged her property, and lied to police officers. The survivor of his abuse says she was hesitant to report for a lot of reasons, including his job as a cop.

“I don’t think I would be alive if I had stayed in that relationship,” said Kayla Della Grotta. She says she started dating Oliver in early 2020 and that soon after, the relationship turned abusive. “I had come home from work and found the interior and exterior of our house to be destroyed. I had found my motorcycle run over.”

That was in September of 2020, one of the final breaking points in the relationship. That day started with Colchester Police responding to a call at the couple’s home. Authorities say a car matching the description of Oliver’s had hit and damaged a few mailboxes on the street.

“We spoke with the person responsible for the car who denied any knowledge of the accident, except to say at the end he would pay for it, which indicated to us he was not being truthful,” said Colchester Police Chief Doug Allen.

Hours later, he says one of Della Grotta’s family members contacted the police concerned about her safety. “We immediately sent an officer and supervisor up to speak with that victim to make sure she was safe and she could leave,” Allen said.

At that point, Della Grotta says she didn’t feel safe enough to talk to the police with Oliver in the house. She says she was also concerned about filing a report because he used his job as an officer against her. “I had been told many times that nobody was going to believe me, that other police officers in the area were aware of the situation and nothing was going to happen if I came forward,” she said.

Shortly after the slew of calls to Colchester Police, Chief Allen says he contacted the Williston Police Chief Patrick Foley. “We do take that extra step because it was a police officer. We want to make sure the officers in Vermont and across the country are good solid officers that deserve to wear that badge,” Allen said.

Williston Police did not return our request for comment. However, the town manager says the town entered into a separation agreement with Oliver shortly after they heard about the allegations.

It wasn’t until December that Della Grotta reported the abuse. Then, it took nearly a year for the case to be prosecuted by Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George. She says cases of domestic violence involving officers aren’t common in the area. “We had this one and another one pending in Chittenden county. I know that when law enforcement officers are involved in domestic violence behaviors in relationships, victims are less likely to report it, so it’s really hard to know,” she said.

Data from the state’s attorney’s office shows 103 misdemeanor domestic assault charges and 62 felony domestic assault charges. Those numbers don’t include the seven cases involving minors.

In this case, Oliver was charged with one count of misdemeanor domestic violence. Under a plea deal, he got a deferred sentence, meaning it will likely fall off his criminal record after a year-long probationary period.

“Misdemeanor domestic violence carries up to 18 months in jail. So, that’s the most anyone could get on a misdemeanor domestic violence case,” George explained.

Even though the unlawful mischief charges will stay on his record, Oliver could potentially become an officer again, but George says it’s unlikely. Her office wrote a letter for his file saying if he did, her office wouldn’t accept any cases from him.

Della Grotta’s relief from abuse order that will go up for renewal in a few years also prevents him from becoming an officer.

Now, she says she’s working to create a trauma-informed interview training for local departments. She’s also using her story to encourage those in potentially abusive relationships to leave and find safety.

“He had left for a night and I decided to pack up my bags. I decided that was it. I left and contacted STEPS to End Domestic Violence, which is our local hotline and shelter for domestic violence victims, and they welcomed me with open arms,” Della Grotta said.

Nicole Kubon, executive director of STEPS, says their door is always open to survivors of abuse. She says by reaching out, survivors are not forced to report to law enforcement and are guaranteed confidentiality. “We will work with them however they are looking for support. A lot of what we do-especially with folks who don’t want to leave an abusive situation is safety planning so we can help them walk through options,” she said. “We can also help talk them through the resources available in the community.”

Della Grotta says the cycle of abuse is hard to break, but she hopes those in it can find a way out to safety. “Nobody deserves to go through this alone. We have so many support systems in Chittenden County made for domestic violence victims. It really is a time we can feel safe coming forward,” she said.

The number for STEPS’ 24/7 hotline is 802-658-1996.

Resources for survivors of domestic violence:

Steps to End Domestic Violence

The Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Vt. Department for Children and Families

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