Sexual assault case casts national spotlight on Maryville

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A teenager in Maryville, Mo., accused a classmate of sexual assault. Her family said because of small town politics, her family was harassed and driven out of town. The case is now getting national attention after media reports sparked widespread outcry.

An article in the Kansas City Star and several other Web sites has caused the story to make national news because the implication is that two boys charged with sexual assault and exploitation of two young girls weren’t punished because of small town politics. Additionally, the fact that both were from prominent Maryville families has been called into question.

Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice released a statement on Tuesday claiming that the article did not include all the facts. He also reasserted a previous stance that there was insufficient evidence to prove a criminal charge that would stand up in court. He would not elaborate on those facts because he stated that he and law enforcement authorities are prohibited from commenting on a closed criminal case.

However, he also said that the state’s witnesses refused to cooperate and invoked the fifth amendment right of a privilege not to testify.

One of the victims and her mother are now speaking out on national television about being harassed and run out of town.

The sheriff of Nodaway County said social media has stirred up more drama than truth.

Melinda Coleman moved her four children, including 14-year-old Daisy, to Maryville after their father was killed in a tragic accident.

According to the article, on January 8, 2012, Daisy and a 13-year-old friend sneaked out to a party with a group of boys including 17-year-old senior Matthew Barnett. Daisy was given something to drink and doesn’t remember anything until she woke up on her front porch in the freezing cold. When her mother found her and took her inside to bathe her in an effort to warm her body, she found signs of sexual assault and an investigation was opened.

Barnett was charged with sexual assault and a misdemeanor endangerment of a child after telling police that he and Coleman had sex that he claimed was consensual. Jordan Zech, also 17 at the time, was charged with sexual exploitation after being accused of filming the incident.

Two months after — all charges were dropped. Many factors have been called into question in the aftermath, including the fact that Barnett’s grandfather, Rex Barnett, is a Missouri state representative from the state’s fourth district.

The Nodaway County sheriff said both his office and the prosecuting attorney were ready to prosecute, but both the victim and her family refused to cooperate.

“The only people’s stories that have been inconsistent throughout this whole thing are the Coleman’s, the victims in this case, and I don’t know why that is, but it is.” Sheriff Darren White told CNN.

Coleman decided to move after she claimed her children were threatened and she was fired from her job.

“My concern is, what is it going to take for them to do something here?  Is one of these girls going to have to die?  Are they going to end up freezing in their front yard, before they do something?” Coleman told CNN.

The case has also roused the activist group Anonymous, who have helped funnel attention to it with the hashtag: #opMaryville

There is a Web site petition asking for an investigation into the prosecution’s handling of the case. A peaceful protest is planned for October 22nd at the Nodaway County courthouse.

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