The last couple of years have been the stuff of nightmares for Melinda Coleman. The living hell started in January 2012 when her teenage daughter was raped, allegedly by a star high school football player in Maryville, Mo., who made her consume a large glass of booze at his house.
Since then, Coleman was fired from her job, the charges against the alleged rapist and his accomplice were suddenly dropped, her family was threatened and finally Coleman’s house burned down in an unexplained fire.
The 15-year-old football star, Matthew Barnett, and his friend Jordan Zech, also 15 at the time of the incident, confessed to sexual assault on the then-14-year-old Daisy Coleman, recording the assault on an iPhone then dumping the girl on the front doorstep of her home, wearing only a T-shirt and sweatpants despite the below-freezing temperatures.
Daisy told police the last thing she remembered was being handed a tall glass of alcohol by Barnett who told her to drink the whole thing and if she didn’t, she was a “bitch.”
Barnett was arrested and charged with sexual assault. Zech was also taken into custody on sexual exploitation charges because he made the iPhone video, though he told police that he thought that his buddy and Daisy (pictured, now at age 16) were not actually having sex, just “dry humping.”
Despite the seemingly convincing evidence against the teens, including their own videotaped confessions, prosecutors dropped the charges two months later.
No one committed a crime that January night, said prosecutor Robert Rice.
“I will not participate in a public lynching of anybody,” he told radio station KCUR, a National Public Radio affiliate.
The grandfather of the accused teen rapist is a prominent political figure in Missouri. Rex Barnett served four terms as a Republican state house representative. He also has political ties to the prosecutor, Rice, who dropped the charges against Barnett and Zech.
Rex Barnett denied to the Kansas City Star that he intervened in the case in any way. Rice called the rumors of political favors in the case “a red herring.”
Then there were the threats. While many residents of Maryville expressed sympathy with the Colemans, others were hostile. Just two days after she found her daughter on her doorstep, Melinda Coleman says she started receiving phone calls threatening to beat up her sons at school.
Her son Charlie, a high school wrestler, was booed. A T-shirt appeared that read, “Matt 1, Daisy 0.”
Two weeks after the rape, Melinda Coleman was fired from her job at a local veterinarian’s clinic. She later went back with a hidden tape recorder to ask for an explanation. Her boss Sally Hayse, a friend of Barnett’s family, told her that it was “putting stress on everybody in here” to have Coleman around.
As a result of the harassment, Coleman — who had moved to Maryville in 2009 after her husband died in a car accident — took her kids and left town. She was still trying to sell her home eight moths later when it burned down.
The Maryville Fire Department never determined the cause of the blaze.
Sources: Kansas City Star, KCUR