In a shocking and disturbing story from Missouri, a small town terrorized a mother and her daughter after the daughter was raped by a high school athlete and left unconscious on her front lawn in freezing weather.
According to a report from the Kansas City Star, the small town of Maryville turned against the newly-arrived family after 14 year-old Daisy Coleman reported that she was given a drink at a party that left her “barely able to stand,” and then was made to have non-consensual sex with an older athlete while another athlete videotaped. Coleman’s 13 year-old friend was also sexually assaulted.
After an investigation by local police, 17 year-old Matthew Barnett was clearly implicated in the sexual assault. But in an inexplicable twist to the story, charges against the teen were dropped with relatively no explanation. Coincidentally, Barnett is the grandson of a well-known former Missouri state representative.
Dugan Arnett of the Kansas City Star writes:
Sexual assault cases can be difficult to build because of factors such as a lack of physical evidence or inconsistent statements by witnesses. But by the time his department had concluded its investigation, Sheriff Darren White felt confident the office had put together a case that would “absolutely” result in prosecutions.
“Within four hours, we had obtained a search warrant for the house and executed that,” White told The Star. “We had all of the suspects in custody and had audio/video confessions.
“I would defy the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department to do what we did and get it wrapped up as nicely as we did in that amount of time.”
But no prosecutions ever came. Dismissing any suggestion of political influence, the prosecuting attorney claimed there wasn’t enough evidence in the case and dropped all charges.
Making matters for the family worse, the town began to turn on them. Online threats and harassing phone calls became a common occurrence. Emboldened by the charges being dropped, the parents of the teens implicated in the assault saw themselves as victims.
The parent of one of the teens at the Barnett house that night was the only one to comment briefly to The Star: “Our boys deserve an apology, and they haven’t gotten it yet.”
For the Colemans, the dismissal of the charges spelled the beginning of the end to their life in Maryville.
In the days that followed, a new round of vitriol made its way online.
“F— yea. That’s what you get for bein a skank : ),” read one tweet, one of many expletive-filled comments posted publicly.
The reaction wasn’t surprising, according to Julie Donelon, president of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault.
Some form of victim-blaming occurs in virtually every sexual assault case, she says, but it can be particularly intense in small towns, where “the victim and her family members are having to see not only the perpetrator and the perpetrator’s family, but also those people … who have expressed disbelief in her story.”
The daily harassment became too much, Coleman says. Daisy and Logan transferred to Albany High School, making the 80-mile round trip daily.
The young men present at the Barnett home that night, meanwhile, seem to have moved on.
Two are now members of Northwest Missouri State University athletic teams, and Barnett is enrolled at the University of Central Missouri, his grandfather’s alma mater. Based on his Twitter account, before it was locked to non-friends, the events of the past two years haven’t dampened his enthusiasm for the opposite sex.
In a recent retweet, he expressed his views on women — and their desire for his sexual attentions — this way:
“If her name begins with A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z, she wants the D.”
Read the full Kansas City Star story here.