MARYVILLE, Mo. - A woman who says her family was forced to move from a northwest Missouri town after her 14-year-old daughter was plied with alcohol and sexually assaulted nearly two years ago disputed authorities' claims that she and her daughter stopped cooperating with investigators.
Melinda Coleman said Tuesday that justice was denied when Nodaway County's prosecutor dropped felony charges against two 17-year-old Maryville High School students in March 2012, two months after she found her daughter passed out on the family's front porch in below-freezing temperatures.
Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice issued a statement saying there wasn't enough evidence to pursue the charges because the accusers had stopped cooperating and asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. In an interview, Sheriff Darren White backed up Rice's statement.
This Oct. 9 photo shows the Nodaway County Courthouse in downtown Maryville, Mo. Melinda Coleman, of Maryville, says she and her family never stopped cooperating with investigators in the alleged sexual assault of her daughter, despite a county prosecutor's statement to the contrary.
The case has drawn new attention since The Kansas City Star published the results Sunday of a seven-month investigation into the allegations. The Star's story described a town where many appeared to be closing ranks around the accused and suggesting the girls were somehow responsible for the incident. In April, after the family had moved, the family's home in Maryville was damaged in a fire, though a cause has not been determined.
Robert Sundell, an attorney who represented the teen accused of assaulting Daisy Coleman, said in a written statement that while many may find his former client's behavior "reprehensible," the legal issue is whether a crime occurred. He said the investigation raised questions about whether the 14-year-old was "incapacitated during the encounter." He also said the charges were dropped after the accusers' stories changed during depositions.
Sundell said his former client would not talk to the media.
Coleman says her 14-year-old daughter was given alcohol in January 2012 and raped by a 17-year-old acquaintance. The girl's 13-year-old friend says she was forced to have sex with a 15-year-old at the same house, while another 17-year-old allegedly recorded the incident on a cellphone.
The daughter acknowledged she and the friend left her house to meet the boys but said they gave her alcohol and she doesn't remember much of what happened next. The boys said the sex was consensual.
The two 17-year-old boys were charged as adults, but Rice dropped felony counts against them several months later. A misdemeanor count against the teen accused of assaulting Daisy was dropped subsequently. The prosecutor cited a lack of evidence and the Colemans' refusal to cooperate. The 15-year-old was charged in juvenile court.