A Missouri family moved to a new city to escape the past—but wound up finding new anguish in not just an alleged rape, but the cruel aftermath. The Kansas City Star has spent seven months digging into the story of Melinda Coleman and her four kids, who moved to Maryville from a town 40 miles away following her husband's death in a car accident. Not long after the move, however, Melinda (who gave the paper permission to use her daughter's name) found 14-year-old Daisy passed out on her doorstep in below-freezing temps in just a T-shirt and sweats; she had sneaked out to attend a party with a friend. Daisy says she was encouraged to drink heavily, and Melinda took her to a hospital, where doctors found indications of "recent sexual penetration." Soon, 17-year-old Matthew Barnett was charged with sexual assault and endangering a child; another friend allegedly videotaped the encounter. But it didn't take long for the charges to be dropped.
As the evidence grew, a sheriff "absolutely" expected prosecution. Another boy at the party, meanwhile, admitted having sex with Daisy's 13-year-old friend despite her rejection; his case was addressed in the juvenile system. As for Barnett, he was locally well-connected, the grandson of a former state representative in a small town—and as the charges were dropped, it was Daisy and her family who faced threats over the incident. Her mother was fired from her job, with her boss citing concerns about lawsuits; Daisy was targeted on social media and twice attempted suicide. After the Colemans finally decided to leave Maryville, their unoccupied house mysteriously burned down. The full story is worth a read in its entirety. (Read more Melinda Coleman stories.)