MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A prosecutor in Missouri who’s faced intense criticism over his handling of a case involving a 14-year-old girl who says she was raped by a 17-year-old acquaintance will ask a special prosecutor to decide if new charges should be filed.
Melinda Coleman, the mother of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, claims justice was denied when Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice dropped felony charges in March 2012, two months after she says her daughter was plied with alcohol, raped, then dumped on the family’s front porch in sub-freezing temperatures.
Rice insists the investigation collapsed after the Colemans became uncooperative with investigators. Melinda Coleman says she and her daughter did cooperate and that investigators didn’t do enough to push the case forward.
Coleman says her family was forced to leave the small northwest Missouri town of Maryville after they were harassed over the allegations.
Rice on Wednesday stood by his earlier statements, saying he’s only asking for a special prosecutor because of recent media stories that questioned the integrity of the county’s justice system.
The incident happened in January 2012, after Daisy and a 13-year-old friend left the Colemans’ house in the middle of the night to meet some boys.
Daisy said the boys gave her alcohol and she doesn’t remember much of what happened next. Another 17-year-old allegedly videotaped the incident involving Daisy on a cellphone. Daisy’s 13-year-old friend also said she was forced to have sex with a 15-year-old. The boys said the sex was consensual.
The 15-year-old was charged in the juvenile system. Charges against the 17-year-old accused of recording the incident were also dropped in March 2012.
The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual assault but is naming Daisy Coleman because she and her mother have been granting public interviews about the case. The AP is not naming the boys because there are no active charges against them.
Melinda Coleman did not return phone calls seeking comment after Rice’s announcement. But in an interview with The Associated Press earlier Wednesday, Coleman insisted she would help investigators in any way she could, even if the case never made it to trial.
“I think just having it looked at fairly and having other people know how much we were bullied goes a long way. Even if that’s all that ever comes out of it,” she said. “That may be enough to move on and have some peace and some security.”
Coleman said her daughter made some mistakes, but that she was still the victim.
“She shouldn’t have snuck out of the house. She shouldn’t have drank. But I think a lot of 14-year-olds do that, and I’m sick of people saying she deserves this,” Coleman said
Robert Sundell, who earlier represented the teen accused of assaulting Daisy, was out of the office Wednesday and didn’t return phone messages. In a statement Tuesday, Sundell said his former client cooperated with the investigation and freely admitted to the sexual encounter. He said that while many may find his former client’s behavior “reprehensible,” the legal issue was whether a crime was committed.
The case has drawn comparisons to one in Steubenville, Ohio, where two 17-year-old high school football players were convicted of raping a West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party in 2012. The case was furiously debated online and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the city’s celebrated football team.
Officials in Maryville say they’ve had to increase police patrols because of threats made against residents and the city in general.
However, Coleman said the harassment her family faced was from just a few residents, mainly friends and family members of the boys accused, and that she otherwise liked Maryville.