Anger over Maryville case boils on Internet

10/14/2013 11:00 PM

01/09/2014 2:32 PM

The mother of a teenage Albany, Mo., girl said Monday she hoped the fresh attention given a dismissed Maryville, Mo., sexual abuse case would prompt local authorities to take another look at it.

“I’d like to see some justice,” said Melinda Coleman in an interview on CNN.

Her daughter, Daisy, the alleged victim in January 2012 when she was 14, said she would be willing to testify in court if the case were reopened.

It was the latest development in a firestorm of reaction since The Star on Sunday published its seven-month investigation into a case in which Daisy was discovered nearly unconscious outside her Maryville home in freezing weather on the morning of Jan. 8, 2012.

It quickly became clear that a high school senior had sex with the freshman — consensual, he said — at his home, and that a 15-year-old boy also had sex with Daisy’s 13-year-old friend there. Arrests were made quickly, and Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White expressed confidence that prosecutions would follow.

One 17-year-old was charged with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Another 17-year-old faced a charge of sexual exploitation of a minor. A 15-year-old also was charged in juvenile court.

But the two worst charges, both felonies, against the 17-year-olds were dropped two months later by the county prosecutor, Robert Rice, who cited a lack of evidence. Several calls to the prosecutor’s office went unanswered Monday.

Following a stream of harassment against her children by some in school and the loss of her own veterinarian job, Melinda Coleman removed her family from Maryville. Their house that she put up for sale burned later, and no cause has been determined.

In an interview with CNN, White reiterated what he’d previously told The Star: that the case foundered because the Colemans would not cooperate with authorities.

“That’s absolutely not true,” Melinda Coleman told CNN. She says her unwillingness occurred only after the two felony charges were dropped.

On Monday, the city manager’s office in Maryville — a 12,000-population town 100 miles north of Kansas City — was inundated with phone calls, emails and social media comments regarding the case.

“It’s been extremely negative,” said City Manager Greg McDanel. “So we’re trying to address that as we can and get the appropriate information out and send it out to the appropriate place.

“It’s drawing attention to the issue,” he added. “Other than that, I don’t have any other comment.”

Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, repeated in a statement that his office is limited in the measures it can take: “While we appreciate the concerns of those who have sent petitions to our office, the Attorney General’s Office does not have the authority under the laws of the state of Missouri to review a prosecutor’s discretionary decisions in particular cases.”

Meanwhile, the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, where the young man who had the encounter with Daisy is now enrolled, was getting angry blowback as well, according to postings on the university’s Facebook page.

The school released a statement to those on campus that read, in part: “This incident occurred more than a year ago, and all charges against persons of interest were dropped. The university is required to allow all qualified and eligible students to pursue an education. UCM continues to uphold the rights and responsibilities of all students and employees.”

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