Washington County State’s Attorney Scott Williams, who won acclaim, and later scrutiny, for his actions at the scene of a high-profile murder in downtown Barre in 2015, says he’s resigning his post to deal with psychological issues related to witnessing the crime.
Williams had been on medical leave since Nov. 14, and said in a resignation letter Monday that “the effect of the murder of Lara Sobel requires that I focus on regaining my health.”
“In considering the best interests and needs of the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office, its excellent staff, and the citizens of the county, I have decided to step down from my role as state’s attorney,” Williams said in a statement released by the Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs.
Williams won widespread praise in 2015 for his role in responding to the murder of Sobel, a social worker who was shot dead as she left her office in downtown Barre in August of 2015. Williams, who had been getting physical therapy in a building nearby, reportedly ran to the scene when he heard the gun shots.
Williams accepted an award in 2016 from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for, among other things, “grabbing” the gun from the shooter, Jody Herring, and “disabling” the weapon.
A 2017 report by Seven Days’ Mark Davis, however, cast doubt on the veracity of the story. According to documents and witnesses interviewed by Davis, Herring had willingly surrendered the firearm prior to Williams’ arrival on the scene.
Herring pleaded guilty last July to the murders of Sobel and three other people, and was later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Williams came under additional scrutiny in recent weeks after Eric Blaisdell of the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reported that Williams had solicited donations to a charity that doesn’t exist. The Times Argus report also suggested that Williams had extracted donations to the charity from defendants as part of plea deals with his office.
Barre City Police Chief Tim Bombardier says Williams deserves praise and sympathy for his actions at the scene of the Sobel murder.
“The pressures of dealing with the most serious criminal cases, many with horrific circumstances, can be emotionally exhausting in and of itself, but add to that the shock and grief after the tragedy of Lara Sobel’s shooting, and it is understandable that Scott has needed to take this time off to regroup and take care of himself,” Bombardier said in a statement.
Bombardier said Williams has “served his country as a veteran, and this community and our county as a strong prosecutor, and he deserves to be happy.”
The day following Williams' resignation, Gov. Phil Scott announced that he had appointed Rory Thibault to serve as interim Washington County state's attorney.
Update 1/9/2018 2:04 p.m. This post was updated with the news of the governor's interim appointment.