Published time: October 17, 2013 19:55
The Nodaway County Courthouse in downtown Maryville, Mo. (Photo from nodaway.countycriminal.com)
Public pressure and a media firestorm have prompted officials in Maryville, Missouri to reopen a controversial sexual assault case that has captivated the attention of people far beyond the small Midwestern town in recent days.
Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice said in a press
conference Wednesday afternoon that he has appointed an official
to conduct an independent review of the facts surrounding the
case of Daisy Coleman, a former Maryville resident who accused a
local football star of raping her almost two years ago.
Coleman, then only 14, said 17-year-old Matthew Barnett sexually
assaulted her in his basement in January 2012 while other
Maryville high school students watched on and even recorded the
ordeal. Barnett told investigators that the incident was
consensual – a claim the Coleman family disputes. Authorities
ultimately dropped all charges in the case after the accuser
allegedly refused to testify.
A 4,000 word article in the Kansas City Star published last
weekend has since gone viral and propelled the story outside of
Maryville and into the mainstream media. Activists within the
Anonymous movement have started a campaign to raise awareness of
Coleman’s case, and the Missouri lieutenant governor and a local
lawmaker have both issued statements urging Rice to re-open the
Now, less than a week after the Star article started to
circulate, Rice has suggested that a new probe will begin soon.
During his remarks on Wednesday outside the Nodaway County
District Courthouse, Rice specifically said the media coverage
that has caused the story to gain international attention this
week made him take action. According to the prosecutor, however,
a case was aborted earlier because of a lack of cooperation on
the part of the Coleman.
“Because last night the witnesses went on a program on CNN and
announced that they were willing to testify and participate in
the prosecution of the case. Until that time, they never told me
they had changed their mind,” Rice said.
The attorney’s office had said previously in an official
statement that “There was insufficient evidence to prove a
criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” and that “The
state’s witnesses refused to cooperate and invoked their Fifth
Amendment privilege to not testify.”
“He’s lying and I don’t know why he’s lying, but it’s a lie.
It’s not true,” mother Melinda Coleman told ABC News of Rice
this week. “I have the initial police report, the girls did
the full interview. They did the rape kit and they did do the
The Associated Press reported that the Nodaway County judge will
appoint the special prosecutor, but likely not until next week
when the justice returns to town. Attorney General Chris Koster
said in a statement to AP on Thursday that his office would
assist the county and trusted the judge would “make the
decision in the best interests of the families.”
Weighing in on his decision to appoint a special prosecutor, Rice
said, “The public trust in our criminal justice system must be
upheld at all times.”
That trust has been questioned in recent days amid media reports
about the Coleman case and questions concerning possible
political ties involving the accused rapist and a long-time area
lawmaker. Matthew Barnett has been described as being
well-connected in the local community, especially given the
three-plus-decades that one family member spent in the Missouri
House of Representatives.
A town of roughly 12,000, Maryville has come under attack since
last weekend due largely to the sheer virality of Coleman’s
story. The hacktivist movement Anonymous plans to protest outside
the Nodaway County Courthouse next week, and the media’s
willingness to keep the nearly two-year-old incident in the
spotlight has prompted a second victim – only 13 at the time – to
speak up. The second alleged victim has since spoken to the media
and has been identified as Paige Borlan. According to a local Fox
affiliate, her case was settled in juvenile court.