19-yr-old Maryville man pleads guilty to endangering child in Daisy Coleman case

MARYVILLE, Mo. — Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker announced Thursday that rape charges in the Daisy Coleman case would not be filed against Matthew Barnett, 19.

However, Barnett was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, and pleaded guilty to that charge.

In October 2013, Peters-Baker was selected to investigate the Maryville rape accusation case that gained national attention and widespread criticism for the way it was handled by the local Nodaway County prosecutor.

“This case will be thoroughly reviewed,” Peters-Baker said back in October. “Our review of this case will be without fear and without favor.”

Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert L. Rice had asked the court to appoint a special prosecutor to review the case of Daisy Coleman, who said she was 14 in January 2012 when Barnett, then 17-years-old, had sex with her without her consent while a second teenage boy recorded the incident with his cellphone. Daisy’s family said after the assault, the boys dropped her off at her house, where she remained outside, passed out, in dangerously cold temperatures.

As part of the plea agreement, Barnett will receive two years probation. He cannot consume or possess alcohol. He cannot contact the victim or her family.

Other conditions include:

  • He must complete 100 hours of community service
  • He must pay restitution to the victim for mental health counseling services, which won’t exceed $1,800
  • He must subject himself to drug testing
  • Must complete substance abuse counseling
  • Must acknowledge wrongdoing and apologize in person to the victim

Jean Peters-Baker said when Daisy Coleman is ready, Peters-Baker will deliver that apology to Daisy. Peters-Baker said the apology she heard Thursday from Barnett sounded genuine.

Before the question could be asked, Peters-Baker explained the reason she did not pursue rape charges against Barnett.

“My job is to analyze evidence. In this case, there was insufficient evidence to go forward on a sexual assault,” said Peters-Baker. “Our system of justice works because it is evidence-based. We don’t always like the outcome.”

In the weeks that followed her daughter’s alleged assault, Melinda Coleman said her children received threats. She was also fired from her job as a veterinarian at a clinic.

In April, their house in Maryville — which had been vacant and for sale — burned. The state fire marshal said that “due to the unsafe nature of the structure, a detailed examination could not be conducted and this fire loss is being listed as undetermined.”

Rice, the Nodaway County prosecutor, said Daisy and her family stopped cooperating with the investigation and therefore he was forced to drop two charges against the accused.

Daisy’s family disputed that and said they believe the charges were dropped because the boy is the grandson of former state legislator Rex Barnett. The Colemans say they were harassed and tormented by many people in the county who had strong ties to the boy’s family.

Anonymous, the activist hacking collective that has instigated cyber attacks on such groups as the Church of Scientology and the Westboro Baptist Church, launched an on-line campaign on behalf of Daisy, demanding an immediate investigation.

The charges against Matthew Barnett could have resulted in a maximum sentence of one year and jail and a $1,000 fine.

“This is a conviction and will remain on his record and never go away,” Peters-Baker said.

Watch our earlier report:

26 comments

  • Joe

    If the state fire marshall is afraid to investigate the arson, let the insurance company or the mortgage lender do it. I have never heard of a fire marshall being afraid to investigate an arson.

    • Just a little research!

      From Missouri torch article…
      There are parts of the story surrounding the fire that have been left out of the main stream accounts. Readers are led to believe the town burned the house down as payback.

      However, the fire reportedly started at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning and originated in the basement.

      Neighbors say they noticed the fire and rushed to the house to make sure there wasn’t anyone in the house, then they called it in. They said the back door was already blackened and smoke was coming out of the windows in the garage doors.

      It hadn’t been burning long.

      Is an arsonist going to start a fire between 7 and 8 am on a Sunday? People are up, getting ready for church, walking their dogs, and generally awake.

      You’d have a very good chance of being seen, especially since the area’s so wide open.

      While arsons generally occur more frequently on Saturday and Sunday, they don’t occur during daylight hours.

      According to the Missouri Fire Marshall’s report, Melinda and her boyfriend were in the house the previous evening from 8 pm until 10 pm. A neighbor reports seeing Melinda’s vehicle outside the home around 5:30 that evening, however.

      Melinda told Mark Fechtig the house had been hit by lightning in 2012, which left a burn mark down a wall. She also told him she had an electrician replace some outlets and she’d experienced no electrical problems since. But that night, the lights in the master bedroom and the living room would not come on.

      Melinda also said the house had been vandalized before:

      She stated the toilets and kitchen sink had the drains stopped up and water left running that caused a lot of water damage to the house.

      It’s important to know the fire was declared undetermined not because they couldn’t discern what caused it, but because the house was unsafe for detailed examination to be conducted.

      Also, I’m told the insurance company that insured the house did their own inspection. As far as I know, that inspection is not public.

      None of this was mentioned in any news article. Instead, a picture is painted that it was yet another attack from a vicious town.

      • Joe

        Very little research and even less intelligent: You seem to making several claims as fact when it is really only hearsay. If you really think you know how to research, find out why the house started on fire. Just because it wasn’t night time doesn’t mean it wasn’t arson. You seem very defensive so who are you defending?

  • Ronald

    What’s the legal age of consent in MO? If you tell me that it’s 14, I’m calling hillbilly on you guys. If it’s greater than 14 yrs old, explain how this is not statutory rape, please.

  • Rita

    If this prosecutor does not do right by these girls, I’m sure re-election will not happen. But then again, that’s probably why the other prosecutor got off the case. So let’s throw this one under the bus…right guys?? It’s obvious money and a do called good name is at stake here. Oh wait, who’s got the clout and probably paying the bill????? This is SO WRONG!!! It gives Raping someone, Cyber-Bulling, Stalking, Arson and the list goes on the ok. Wrong it is!! May God watch closely over this case, I pray!

  • Terry Roberts

    I don’t think they can call statuatory because he is also underage, unless he his certified as an adult for the charge. Of course he is now but when it happened he wasn’t. As for her being to young for age of consent, I guess that is true, but then he also is not over 18. But in this investigation why is not more brought out about the alcohol for underage kids and who supplied it. Who had the party, were adults present? Let’s face it the idiots who videoed it to go out on the cell phone and then all who proceded to do this were really stupid. Instead of a case of a girl getting drunk and a guy getting a little from her he had to leave her outside to almost freeze to death. The missing phone is a good question to. Someone in D.A. or Cops really screwed that one. Yes I believe that Daisy’s family got a bum rap, and the town of Maryville should be very ashamed to let this go, as well as the county. They need to clean up this mess pronto .

      • Neihn

        And google is your friend as well. AOC should not have mattered in this case. The minor was drunk and therefore could not legally consent. You had several witnesses that said she was not right and even the hospital report verified she would have been in no condition to legally grant consent. The report from the hospital said she was at .08 which is legally drunk like 8 hours or so later. Now being tossed in the cold would have slowed your body’s metabolism rate so you can then point that her BAC was going to be higher then that and possibly much higher. I just dont buy the lack of evidence. Everything that was reported to the press shows that there is enough evidence that a rape occurred and even the police at the time said there was enough evidence. So what happened?

  • Paula

    THIS is why sexual assault goes hugely unreported, which only fuels the perpetrator’s confidence. Most sexual predators, especially those that target children, often go decades before being reported and leave dozens of victims in their wake.

  • Tom Paine

    I wonder if the special prosecutor will pursue child porn charges against the teen who took pictures of the young girl’s compromised position, but did not physically violate her? That seems to be her specialty, given past cases…

  • William

    Two separate prosecutors looked into this and decided there was not enough evidence to pursue sexual assault charges. The family is also reportedly supportive of the plea agreement. I haven’t heard the family saying they were outraged by this decision. The system worked, he was charged with and pled guilty to a crime. Justice is served.

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