EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 8, 2014

Teen at center of sexual assault casein stable condition after suicide attempt

By Dugan Arnett
The Kansas City Star

---- — KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Daisy Coleman, the northwest Missouri teen whose alleged 2012 sexual assault in Maryville has garnered international attention, is in stable condition following a suicide attempt, a family friend familiar with the situation told The Kansas City Star on Tuesday.

Robin Bourland, a longtime acquaintance of the Coleman family, said that Coleman is being treated at a Kansas City children’s psychiatric hospital after ingesting a number of unidentified pills Sunday evening.

“It’s been heartbreaking for them,” Bourland said of the Colemans. “This has been a really long, drawn-out battle, and it’s heartbreaking to see something like this happening.”

According to Bourland, the incident stemmed from online harassment Coleman received after attending a party over the weekend. In one instance, a disparaging Facebook post generated additional, similar comments, said Bourland, and “it just escalated from there.”

Coleman’s case gained national notoriety following an October story in The Star detailing the alleged sexual assault and the harassment Coleman and her family received after making the allegations.

In the story, Daisy’s family said that she previously had attempted suicide twice in the wake of that harassment, much of it on social media, some at the high school.

The case centered on a January 2012 house party in which Coleman and a friend — ages 14 and 13 at the time — alleged they were sexually assaulted at the home of Matthew Barnett, a then-17-year-old Maryville High senior and the grandson of a former state representative.

Barnett was arrested on charges of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, the latter for allegedly leaving Coleman incapacitated by alcohol and barefoot in her yard in 30-degree temperatures.

Jordan Zech was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, which involved using a friend’s cellphone to film a portion of the encounter between Coleman and Barnett. (A 15-year-old boy, who admitted to having intercourse with the younger girl despite her repeated refusals, was processed in juvenile court.).

Two months later, however, Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice dropped the felony charges against the youths, citing a lack of evidence and, later, a lack of cooperation on the part of the victims and their families.

The mothers of both girls have insisted they were willing to cooperate with authorities until the felony charges were dropped.

In October, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker was appointed to re-examine the case to determine whether fresh charges were warranted.

Although many have rallied around the alleged victims in recent months — online “hacktivist” group Anonymous took up Coleman’s cause, and last month, the Huffington Post named her one of its “Most Fearless Teens of 2013” — the girls’ mothers have said that harassment locally has persisted.

In addition to the allegations of cyber bullying, Gentry County officials last week confirmed they were looking into a case involving the alleged planting of three skinned rabbits inside a vehicle parked in the driveway of the home of the younger girl in the 2012 case.

Peters Baker has declined to discuss her investigation while it is ongoing and has not provided a timetable for its completion.

“It’s heartbreaking to have your daughter targeted by so many people,” Bourland said, when asked about the emotional state of Daisy’s mother, Melinda Coleman. “And to feel like this is her only way to cope.”