In January 2012, Daisy Coleman, then 14 years old, attended a junior high/high school party in Maryville, MO, the town she and her family had recently moved to following her dad’s untimely death. At that party, Daisy became intoxicated to the point of being unable to stand; she was then allegedly raped by 17-year-old senior and star football player Matthew Barnett. The rape was filmed with an iPhone camera — the video was allegedly passed around at school — and then deposited the unconscious girl on her porch in the middle night in 22 degree weather. Daisy was discovered by her mother, Melinda Coleman, the next morning, her hair frozen, clad only in sweatpants and a T-shirt. (Though news outlets usually keep rape victims’ identities anonymous, Melinda Coleman has released Daisy’s name to the media on her own.)
The Coleman family reported the rape to police and sexual assault charges were quickly filed against Matthew Barnett. “Within four hours, we had obtained a search warrant for the house and executed that,” Sheriff Darren White told The Kansas City Star‘s reporter Dugan Arnett in meticulously researched and written piece about the case that ran this weekend. “We had all of the suspects in custody and had audio/video confessions.” (Daisy’s 13-year-old friend was also raped by a 15-year-old friend of Barnett’s, but that case was handled in juvenile court.) But despite White’s confidence that they had “put together a case that would ‘absolutely’ result in prosecutions,” the lead prosecutor on the case, Robert Rice, dropped the charges against Barnett a few weeks later citing “lack of evidence.” Coincidentally, not only is Barnett the star high school football player in a town that values that sort of thing, but he’s also the grandson of Republican Missouri Representative Rex Barnett, and critics of this case and its conclusion argue that Coleman’s rape was swept under the rug because of the Barnett family’s long history in the town and their close association with local law enforcement.
Much like we’ve seen in other small town high school sexual assault cases — Steubenville, for example, or the Rehteah Parsons case in Nova Scotia – the town of Maryville stood behind Barnett and against Daisy and the Coleman family. Daisy and her family was harassed relentlessly and Daisy even attempted suicide; Melinda Coleman says she was fired from her job at a veterinary clinic because of the case. The family put their house up for sale and moved to Albany, but six months ago the Maryville house mysteriously burned to the ground, and no cause has been found.
This case is appalling and deserves as much attention as possible. Please read and share the piece in The Kansas City Star, which details the victim-blaming and harassment Daisy Coleman and her family have endured and how justice has not been served.
[Photo: Kansas City Star]