encouraging son to
By the CNN Wire Staff
March 23, 2011
A California mother was
arrested this week after she
was captured on video
encouraging her son to pummel
another boy, police said.
The woman can be heard
yelling "Beat him down. Body
slam him," as the two boys
swing wildly at each other in the
scuffle that leaves one bloody.
At one point in the video,
circulated on the internet, the
woman offers pointers to her
son on how to win the fight. She
also assures the combatants
they have permission to fight in
her yard and that she will not
call the police.
Police say they have arrested
the woman, identifying her as
Jennifer Zuniga, 33, of the
central California city of Ceres.
She faces child endangerment
and contributing to the
delinquency of a minor charges,
"Jennifer can be heard and
seen in the video yelling and
encouraging her son to batter
the other juvenile. Jennifer is
heard yelling a barrage of
profanities and enticing the
fight," Ceres Police said in a
The video was posted on
YouTube and police say they
learned about it from a tipster.
Police also credited a man who
witnessed the fight and can be
seen on the video stopping it.
"This man (challenges) Jennifer
Zuniga's actions and stopped
the assault before someone
was seriously injured," the
police statement said.
At the end of the video, the man
is seen getting in between the
"Lady, you're letting them fight
like this? What kind of example
are you, lady?" the man asks.
"I don't care," the woman replies.
Bystanders often blame the victim
Dealing with bullies
in the workplace
By Joyce E. A. Russell
May 27, 2012
An estimated 14 million
Americans are being bullied at
work, according to Gary and Ruth
Namie’s 2011 book on workplace
bullying, with women targeted
more often. In firms around the
world, bullying is recognized as a
significant health and safety issue
and one of the most common
causes of workplace related
stress, psychological injury, or
even suicide. It is particularly
problematic during tough
economic times when abused
employees feel they don’t have
the option to leave their firms.
There are varying definitions of
bullying. In a 2005 article on
“Workplace Bullying and
Harassment,” by Hadyn Olsen, it
is defined as “unwanted and
unwarranted behavior that a
person finds offensive,
intimidating or humiliating and is
repeated so that it has a
detrimental effect upon a person’
s dignity, safety and well-being.”
While bullying might constitute
harassing behaviors, it may not
be based on a person’s gender
or race, but rather on the bully’s
abuse of power. As Olsen noted,
some people are situational
bullies and engage in shouting,
verbal abuse, intimidation,
tantrums, vicious gossip,
sabotage and aggression. Others
are chronic bullies who are
always picking on someone
because of their own dysfunctions
— maybe they are deceitful and
manipulative, lack empathy or are
addicted to power.
Bullying is often hidden within
company cultures, and sometimes
even protected by employers and
employees. Some people,
especially those in leadership
positions, may turn a blind eye
and label it as simply a
personality clash among
employees. Some call this a
culture of collusion, in which
people generally accept the
behavior and say things like,
“That’s how this place is,
everyone experiences it,” or “You
have to be thick-skinned to work
I have known some leaders who
have told employees to just
“tough it out.” This is not helpful
and enables bullies to continue,
while painting those who complain
as weak and whiny. Such
attitudes can also create an
atmosphere of fear that
intimidates people from speaking
The role of the leader
A firm’s leader must take a strong
stance against bullying. First, he
or she must act as a good role
model. Second, a leader cannot
ignore offenses – otherwise it
appears the behavior is
Dealing with the issue is important
because employees, who don’t
have the power or personality to
push back, may end up leaving
the firm. More importantly, the
harmful behavior is unnecessary,
unwarranted and unreasonable
and just needs to be stopped.
A leader must be connected
enough to his/her staff to gauge
morale and behaviors.
Unfortunately, some can be
detached and not have good
insights about what employees
are experiencing. Because many
bullies don’t act up in front of their
bosses, it is important for leaders
to collect feedback from
colleagues or subordinates to
identify inappropriate behaviors.
Then there are other leaders who
know what is going on, but ignore
it — thinking it will go away. They
wait until the bullying results in a
crisis before they take action. Or
they ignore it because the bully
has power in the firm or delivers
results. It takes a confident strong
leader to be able to make sure
his/her staff is not being bullied
by anyone, and then to take
action if they see that behavior
Leaders must confront the bully,
indicating what specifically they
saw (e.g., “you called that person
worthless and stupid”) rather than
making vague statements (e.g.,
“you’re not nice to others”). Make
sure the bully understands the
bullying behaviors must stop.
Further, decide what other
actions to take (along with HR)
such as documenting the
behaviors or encouraging the
bully to get counseling.
As they do to thwart harassment,
organizations should create a
culture of respect and have anti-
bullying policies in place. Firms
should have a zero-tolerance
policy, and outlaw tantrums,
screaming, intimidation, threats
and any repetitive behavior that
Further, there should be
processes in place so that
employees can bring up concerns
and complaints. When issues are
raised, senior leaders must be
sure to hear all the evidence and
treat it confidentially while
collecting the data. I have heard
many stories of leaders who have
confidences which led to more
bullying. It might be valuable to
rely on an HR professional,
mediator or another trained
person to listen to the complaints.
People come to a workplace to
work, not to be exposed to
harassing or bullying behaviors.
Bullying can have dire
consequences for the health of
employees and the firm. It is the
leader’s responsibility to create a
workplace that is not only free
from harmful behaviors, but one
that encourages respect among
all employees, regardless of
personality, performance, status
|San Diego Education Report
Can Hazing Make a Team Stronger?
Nov 13, 2013
by Sheila M. Eldred
When Richie Incognito was suspended from the Miami Dolphins last week under
allegations of bullying teammate Jonathan Martin, most of his teammates came to his
defense, claiming that Incognito's actions stemmed out of football tradition.
"If entrance into a group requires a lot of effort or enduring something that is
unpleasant or embarrassing, we attribute greater worth to the group," said Clark Power,
Notre Dame professor of psychology and founder of the Play Like A Champion
Educational Series for youth and high school sports. "In sports, we might say that we will
value being a member of the team more to justify going through the hazing we are put
Proponents of initiation rites and hazing say that the traditions build character and team
[Maura Larkins' comment: Out-of-control mobs also have unity.]
Still, Power and other experts agree that hazing should never be condoned.
"Studies show that harder tasks required to get into a group can increase (the standing
of a new member) for a group," said Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin
College in Indiana who has written four books on hazing. "But this is a quick fix and
doesn't stop cliques and resentment from forming."
Look at the extreme groups that promote hazing-type violence, suggested Susan
Lipkins, psychologist and author of "Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers and
Coaches Can Stop the Violence, Harassment, and Humiliation."
"People bond by sharing an experience," Lipkins said. "When conditions are dramatic
or traumatic, bonding happens almost instantly. Hazing activities are based on traditions
and are used to discipline or to maintain a hierarchy. These acts are either physically or
psychologically harmful or potentially harmful."
So when do acceptable rites of initiation cross the line into hazing?
Although current members of the Miami Dolphins have publicly supported Incognito,
denying that his actions were harmful, some former teammates expressed their doubts.
"Hate is a strong word but I've always hated Incognito," Lawrence Jackson, a former
NFL player, said on Twitter. "Just for perspective, he's the guy that makes you want to
spit in his face."
College teammate David Kolowski said Incognito's bullying goes back to 2002, when
one player walked out of practice after Incognito knocked him to the ground during
practice, USA Today reports.
Bystanders, most hazing and bullying experts agree, have a great deal of
power in such situations. But football players are so indoctrinated in a culture
that celebrates a narrow view of masculinity that it's easier to blame the victim,
said Dan Lebowitz, executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at
Northeastern University in Boston.
"We have a skewed view of what manhood is," Lebowitz said. "If our definition
of masculinity can't include kindness and compassion, and if you're
acculturated in that definition for the entirety of your upbringing, the first
thing you do is blame the victim. Teammates were saying he should've just
punched him out. Of course, at the end of the day, he did something that takes
even more courage."
By not speaking up for Martin, teammates were reinforcing Incognito's
behavior, according to the bystander theory.
BLOG: Does Evolution Punish or Favor the Selfish?
"Bystanders often become part of a cycle, repeating the bullying that they saw or
experienced," Lipkins said. But bystanders also have the power to help the victim.
"Bystanders are actually the answer to the problem," she said. "If we could train
bystanders to report, or to train them to act as a group to intervene, hazing might be
A 2008 study showed that 55 percent of college students in clubs, sports or other
organizations experienced hazing.
"I believe that hazing is becoming more prevalent, more violent, and more sexualized,"
Lipkins said. "One reason is that with each hazing the perpetrators want to leave their
own mark so they usually increase the violence, the humiliation, the sexuality, etc."
But experts have differing opinions on whether hazing is getting better or worse.
"We have seen lots of organizations ban it and in most states (44) it is against the law,"
Power said. "I do see it becoming less violent when it does occur."
By walking out of the situation, Martin helped shed light on bullying and hazing in the
NFL by sparking a conversation, Lebowitz said.
For example, an unscientific survey of NFL players by ESPN conducted last week
showed that most of the 72 players surveyed -- 57 percent -- would not want Incognito
as a teammate. And 43 percent said they had been victims of hazing while playing in
"Change happens because of conversation," Lebowitz said. "These types of incidents
raise the conversation to a national level."
Update in Maryville rape case
Twist in Missouri Teen Rape Case
New charges were filed after an uproar when prosecutors dropped all charges against
Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family
October 12, 2013
By DUGAN ARNETT
The Kansas City Star
MARYVILLE, Mo. — There wasn’t much left by the time she arrived, just a burnt-out structure and the
haze of smoke that lingered around it.
The siding and gutters had melted. The roof was gone. Inside, piles of ash filled the rooms that had
once bustled with the pleasant sounds of a family.
That morning last April when Melinda Coleman received word that emergency vehicles were
gathering around her Maryville house, she had hoped for the best.
But if the events of the past year and a half had taught her anything, it was that when the town of
Maryville was involved, that seemed unlikely.
Since the morning her daughter had been left nearly unconscious in the frost of the home’s front
lawn, this northwest Missouri community had come to mean little besides heartache.
Few dispute the basic facts of what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2012: A high
school senior had sex with Coleman’s 14-year-old daughter, another boy did the same with her
daughter’s 13-year-old friend, and a third student video-recorded one of the bedding scenes.
Interviews and evidence initially supported the felony and misdemeanor charges that followed.
Yet, two months later, the Nodaway County prosecutor dropped the felony cases against the youths,
one the grandson of a longtime area political figure.
The incident sparked outrage in the community, though the worst of it was directed not at the
accused perpetrators but at a victim and her family. In the months that followed, Coleman lost her
job, and her children were routinely harassed. When it became too much, they left, retreating east to
Coleman had hoped the move would allow them to heal in peace, that the 40 miles separating the
towns would be enough to put an end to their bitter saga.
Now, though, as she stared at the charred remains of her house, the distance didn’t seem nearly
Three years ago, when the Colemans arrived in Maryville from Albany, there was plenty to like about
their new hometown.
The 12,000-population city, tucked into an expansive stretch of farmland along Missouri’s northern
border, offered an idyllic setting. It was, like many small towns, close-knit, with an old-fashioned
town square and a passion for high school football. The kind of place where down-home values still
reigned and you couldn’t stop by the local Hy-Vee or A&G Restaurant without running into a familiar
For a family still struggling with the effects of a tragedy, it represented a fresh start.
Just three years earlier, Coleman’s physician husband, Michael, had been on his way to watch his
son compete in a wrestling tournament when his truck skidded on a patch of black ice and careened
into a ravine. Two of the couple’s children — Daisy and Logan, ages 9 and 10 at the time — escaped
through a back window. Michael didn’t survive.
Hardly a day went by, it seemed, without driving past his old medical practice or the place where the
wreck had occurred. Months after the death, well-meaning friends still introduced Melinda, a
veterinarian, as “Dr. Coleman’s widow.” Even the family’s home, a Victorian they had spent a decade
renovating, served as a reminder of what had been lost.
And so, midway through the 2009-10 school year, Coleman decided to relocate.
“Even though it was sad to leave, in some ways it was a huge weight off our shoulders,” she says
now. “Just to be anonymous, in a way.”
For the most part, the family settled nicely into its new surroundings. Charlie, the oldest son,
became a three-sport athlete at Maryville High, eventually earning a baseball scholarship to Baker
University. Logan, two years younger, was an accomplished wrestler with a good group of friends,
and Tristan, the youngest, was everyone’s pet.
And then there was Daisy.
Pretty and blond, she had grown up competing in beauty pageants, amassing a dresserful of
trophies. Though slower than her brothers to assimilate, midway through her freshman year at
Maryville High, she seemed to be finding her place.
A member of the school’s cheerleading team, she was already part of the varsity squad that
performed at boys basketball games. Her grades, her mother says, were nearly all A’s, and she had
begun to make friends as part of a local dance team.
And she’d recently captured the attention of a popular senior football player, a 17-year-old with whom
she had begun texting.
His name was Matthew Barnett, and for a girl still trying to make her way in a new place, the attention
Jan. 7, 2012, was a Saturday night, and Daisy spent it the way she spent most weekend evenings —
with her best friend, a 13-year-old girl she had grown up with in Albany.
During a typical sleepover, the girls played music, made dance videos or watched movies.
On this night, however, their activities were a bit more brazen.
In Daisy’s bedroom closet was a stash of alcohol from which both girls sipped. As they passed the
night talking and watching TV, Daisy also texted with Barnett.
Barnett played defensive end for Maryville High School’s vaunted football team, the Spoofhounds,
and came from a prominent Maryville family — his grandfather had been a longtime member of the
Missouri House of Representatives. Tall and handsome, Barnett had a scraggly beard and a
reputation as a guy who liked to have a good time, the latter bolstered by an arrest for drunken
Daisy had come to know him through Charlie; in fact, Barnett had been among the boys piled into
the Coleman living room just a few days earlier, watching football on the big screen as Melinda
served up chili and snacks. The two boys were football teammates, and while Charlie liked Barnett
well enough, he was also wary. Enough that, upon discovering his sister was texting with the senior,
he tried to put an end to it.
“I told her to stay clear of that kid,” Charlie remembers. “But honestly, what teenage kid wants to
(listen to) her older brother?”
At some point that Saturday evening, the texting condensed into a plan.
Shortly after midnight, Coleman went in to check on the girls and found them watching a movie in
Around 1 a.m., the teens slipped out a bedroom window and were met by Barnett and another boy,
who drove them three miles to the Barnett house.
When they arrived, sneaking in through a basement window, the girls found themselves among
some of the school’s most popular student-athletes. In addition to Barnett, there was junior Jordan
Zech, a top wrestler and all-state linebacker; a senior football and tennis player whose family owned
the popular A&G Restaurant; a third junior football player; and a 15-year-old who knew the group
through an older sibling.
None of the teens commented for this story. Normally, The Star does not identify victims of alleged
sexual abuse, but this case is widely known in Maryville, and Coleman allowed her daughter’s name
to be used in The Star, as well as an earlier KCUR broadcast, to bring attention to the case. She
also provided copied investigative records that had been sealed by authorities.
In those records, Daisy alleges that after she arrived, Barnett handed her a large glass filled with
alcohol. The boys urged her drink it and then a second glass too, she related later to her mother.
That, she would tell police, was the last thing she remembers.
The sun hadn’t yet risen the next morning when Coleman, groggy from a sleep interrupted, made
her way toward the living room.
She had woken moments earlier to the sound of scratching at the front door — the dogs, she
figured, had gotten out — and grudgingly went to investigate.
Instead, she found Daisy, sprawled on the front porch and barely conscious.
The low temperature in the area that day was listed at 22 degrees, and the teen had spent roughly
three hours outside, wearing only a T-shirt and sweatpants. Her hair was frozen. Scattered across
an adjacent lot were her daughter’s purse, shoes and cellphone.
Coleman tried to process what she was seeing. Daisy had a history of sleepwalking — years earlier,
she had wandered outside. Had she done it again? In her daughter’s bedroom, Coleman found the
13-year-old asleep. She, too, seemed confused.
Still struggling to make sense of it all, Coleman carried her daughter to the bathroom, to be
undressed for a warm bath.
That’s when she saw the redness around her daughter’s genitalia and buttocks. It hurt, the girl said,
when Coleman asked about it. Then she began crying.
“Immediately,” Coleman says, “I knew what had happened.”
Coleman called 911, which directed her to St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, where, according to
Daisy’s medical report, doctors observed small vaginal tears indicative of recent sexual penetration.
The 13-year-old also ended up at St. Francis.
It wasn’t until a captain of the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the hospital for one-on-one
interviews with each girl, however, that the full picture of the night’s events began to emerge.
While the last Daisy remembered was drinking “a big glass of clear stuff,” the 13-year-old’s
recollections proved more useful.
The younger girl, who admitted drinking that night but denied doing so after arriving at Barnett’s, said
she went into a bedroom with the 15-year-old boy, who was an acquaintance. He is unidentified in
this article because his case was handled in juvenile court, but sheriff’s records include his
interview, in which he said that although the girl said “no” multiple times, he undressed her, put a
condom on and had sex with her.
When the two returned to the basement’s common area, the 13-year-old said, Barnett emerged from
another room and asked if the girls were ready to go home. She said Daisy was unable to speak
coherently and had to be carried from the bedroom.
Around 2 a.m., the girls were driven back to the Coleman house, where, the 13-year-old said, the
boys told her to go on inside, saying they would watch over Daisy outside until she sobered up.
The younger girl also offered a significant detail, one later reiterated in the interviews of at least three
of the boys.
As Daisy was carried to the car, she was crying.
One by one that Sunday morning, the boys were rounded up and brought to the Nodaway County
Sheriff’s Office for questioning.
Barnett, who was arrested and charged with sexual assault, a felony, and endangering the welfare of
a child, a misdemeanor, admitted to having sex with Daisy and to being aware that she had been
drinking. He insisted the sex was consensual.
Barnett was not charged with statutory rape, as that Missouri law generally applies in cases when a
victim is under 14 years old or the perpetrator is over 21. But felony statutes also define sex as non-
consensual when the victim is incapacitated by alcohol.
Hospital tests around 9 a.m., roughly seven hours after her last imbibing, showed Daisy’s blood
alcohol content still at 0.13.
In addition to admitting his own sexual encounter with the younger girl, according to the sheriff’s
office report, the 15-year-old said the boys had left Daisy “outside sitting in 30-degree weather” —
even more dangerous with a high alcohol level in the bloodstream.
From him, the lawmen also learned that Barnett and Daisy’s encounter had been captured with an
iPhone. That led to 17-year-old Zech’s felony charge of sexual exploitation of a minor. Records show
that after initially declining to answer questions, Zech said he had used a friend’s phone to record
some of the encounter. He said, however, that he thought Barnett and the girl were only “dry
humping,” a term commonly used to describe rubbing together clothed. Another teen, however, told
police the video featured both Barnett and Daisy with their pants down.
By midafternoon Sunday, a search warrant for the Barnett home resulted in the seizure of a blanket,
bedsheets, a pair of panties found on a bedroom floor, a bottle of Bacardi Big Apple and plastic
bottles of unidentified liquids. The sheriff’s office also seized three cellphones, including the iPhone
allegedly used by Zech.
Sexual assault cases can be difficult to build because of factors such as a lack of physical evidence
or inconsistent statements by witnesses. But by the time his department had concluded its
investigation, Sheriff Darren White felt confident the office had put together a case that would
“absolutely” result in prosecutions.
“Within four hours, we had obtained a search warrant for the house and executed that,” White told
The Star. “We had all of the suspects in custody and had audio/video confessions.
“I would defy the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department to do what we did and get it wrapped up
as nicely as we did in that amount of time.”
News of the case shocked the town. Initially, sympathy was expressed for the girls and their families.
“We’re very lucky,” the sheriff told the newspaper in nearby St. Joseph. “It was very cold, in the 30s,
and people die laying out in the cold like that.”
He also asked residents to keep gossip and unfounded allegations to themselves, as it could
hinder the case.
A sizable contingent stood by the accused athletes, however, and as the story ripped through the
halls of Maryville High School, many took to Twitter and Facebook to make their allegiance known.
Two days after discovering her daughter on the front porch, Coleman says, she got a phone call from
another mother warning her that online threats were being levied against the Coleman children,
including a suggestion that her sons would be beaten up in the school parking lot.
When she checked online, she discovered that many of the comments were aimed at Daisy. On
Twitter, the brother of one of the boys at the Barnett home that night wrote that he hoped Daisy “gets
Daisy was suspended from the cheerleading squad for her role in the night’s events. Barnett did not
finish his senior year there, according to his lawyer.
During his Senior Night with the wrestling team, Charlie was booed by some students. Among the
comments that made it back to him in the weeks following the arrests: that his mother and sister
were “crazy bitches,” that Barnett was blameless, and that Daisy had been “asking for it.”
“There were several days,” Charlie says, “I just wanted to go knock a kid’s teeth out.”
At a dance competition, Melinda Coleman says, a girl arrived wearing a homemade shirt: Matt 1,
Two weeks after the incident, Coleman says, she was told without explanation that her employment
at Maryville’s SouthPaws Veterinary Clinic was being terminated.
Days later, carrying a hidden tape recorder, she returned to speak with her boss. In the recording,
provided to The Star, Coleman asked Sally Hayse point-blank the reason for her firing.
Hayse said the possibility that Coleman might pursue civil charges in the case — which she has not
done — was “putting stress on everybody in here” and “there’s going to be times when we probably
have stuff booked, and you wouldn’t be able to come in.”
Reached by The Star, Hayse acknowledged that she has ties to the family of one of the teens at the
Barnett home that night and that the incident involving Daisy did complicate her relationship with
“This is a small community, and it definitely was stressful for us here, without a doubt,” she said, but
“if you were to ask me point-blank (why the firing), I would say it’s because our style of medicine didn’
t jive.” She did not offer that reason to Coleman in the taped conversation.
Through it all, Coleman held tightly to a belief in justice and that the youths’ punishment would
provide closure for the family. She spoke with White on multiple occasions and sat down with Robert
Rice, the Nodaway County prosecutor, to discuss her concerns.
“She would come to the sheriff’s office on an almost daily basis,” says White of the days following
the arrests. “And I would sit down with her and try to answer her questions and explain to her what
was going on. And the next day she’d show up, and we’d go through the same thing again.
“It was like living through the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’”
In early March, however, while awaiting a hearing for Barnett and Zech, Coleman says, she received
a call from a friend with local political ties: The word was that favors were being called in and that the
charges would be dropped.
Coleman says she didn’t give the call much credence, but she passed the message on to her
lawyer, who wrote to the county prosecutor inquiring about the rumors.
Less than a week later, Coleman was at the grocery store when she got another call.
The felony sexual assault charge against Barnett, as well as Zech’s sexual exploitation count, had
Located a hundred miles north of Kansas City, Maryville serves as the seat of Nodaway County. It’s a
college town, home to 7,000-student Northwest Missouri State University and its powerhouse
Division II football program, and is small enough that most longtime residents are connected in
When a reporter visited Maryville police to obtain copies of Zech’s arrest record, for instance, the
department employee who pulled the file was the mother of one of the five boys at the Barnett home
“It’s a big town in a rural area, but it’s still a rural area,” says author Harry MacLean, who spent four
years living in Nodaway County while researching “In Broad Daylight,” his best-selling book on the
murder of Skidmore bully Ken McElroy and the town cover-up that followed. “…They do tend to
revolve around the influence of several families. All of those small towns are like that there. There’s
four or five or six families that carry the weight.”
And in Maryville, the Barnett name carries a good deal of weight.
Rex Barnett served 32 years with the Missouri Highway Patrol’s Troop H before embarking on a
fruitful political run. In 1994, the Republican was elected as a state representative, serving four terms
before leaving the House in 2002.
He also has political ties to prosecutor Rice. Barnett’s granddaughter worked as a volunteer on the
campaign of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, who also employs Rice’s sister as an aide in constituent
In the aftermath of the dropped charges, this wasn’t lost on many in the town.
A petition, generating more than 1,200 signatures, was posted on the website Change.org to
request an investigation by Attorney General Chris Koster. Emails were sent to Jefferson City as
well. The office ultimately said it didn’t have the authority to review Rice’s decision.
“I wanted to make sure that everything that was being done was on the up-and-up,” says Amanda
Amen, the petition’s author and an acquaintance of the mother of the 13-year-old. “Because at the
time, there were a lot of rumors.”
In a phone interview, Rex Barnett said that from the time of his grandson’s arrest, he made a point
not to meddle in the case.
“As far as contacting anybody, even to get information, I wasn’t even going to do that,” he said.
“Because I knew that any contact whatsoever by me with the sheriff’s department or prosecuting
attorney — or any witness, as far as that goes — would have been bad for me and bad for the case.”
A spokesman for Graves, whose name came up in relation to the case in discussions online and
around town, released a statement to The Star on Aug. 7: “Sam literally knows nothing about this
situation. The first our office heard of it was on Internet blogs.”
Last week, after a consultant for Graves contacted the newspaper, the spokesman provided an
amended statement: “The first Sam had ever heard of it was when The Star called his office for
comment. However, as the father of two girls, he understands the families’ outrage and their search
When the charges were dropped, in accordance to Missouri law, all records pertaining to the case
were sealed, such as interviews with nearly a dozen witnesses, the results of tests done on
bedclothes and the rape kits. The video wasn’t found, according to the prosecutor, though Charlie
Coleman told his mother it was passed around at school.
Melinda Coleman says Rice never informed her of his decision. Nor, she claims, did he return the
voice messages that she and her attorney left with his office seeking an explanation.
Rice later denied this to The Star, though a letter written to him by Coleman’s attorney on March 19, a
week after the charges had been dismissed, states: “I called your office multiple times last week in
an attempt to obtain accurate information so that I could explain your decision to my client. You did
not return my telephone calls.”
After initially declining to speak with The Star this summer, Rice later agreed to an interview with a
reporter who showed up unannounced.
Sitting in his nicely decorated town square office — on one wall is a small collection of framed
NMSU jerseys, on another is a framed photo of Graves — he defended his decision, calling the
rumors of political favors a “total red herring.”
Rice said charges were dropped for lack of evidence, but he added, declining to go into the
specifics, that information brought to his attention regarding what happened “before, during and
after” the incident also played a role in his actions.
“There wasn’t any prosecuting attorney that could take that case to trial,” he said.
“It had to be dismissed. And it was.”
The parent of one of the teens at the Barnett house that night was the only one to comment briefly to
The Star: “Our boys deserve an apology, and they haven’t gotten it yet.”
In a later interview, Rice called it a case of “incorrigible teenagers” drinking alcohol and having sex.
“They were doing what they wanted to do, and there weren’t any consequences. And it’s
reprehensible. But is it criminal? No.”
Robert Sundell, who represented Barnett, echoed that sentiment: “Just because we don’t like the
way teenagers act doesn’t necessarily make it a crime.”
For his part, White, the sheriff, maintains “no doubt” a crime was committed that night. The doctor
who treated Daisy the following morning called the prosecutor’s decision to drop the charges
“surprising.” And one longtime Missouri attorney believes the Colemans’ status as relative outsiders
played a part in the cases’ dismissals.
“The fact that the family wasn’t from Maryville made it a lot easier for the prosecutor to drop those
charges,” he said.
The mother of the 13-year-old Albany girl, who asked that her name not be used, puts it more bluntly:
“If that had been one of my sons — and my sons would rather cut their hands off than do something
like that — but had that been one of my kids, they would be sitting in a maximum security prison
somewhere doing 25 years. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
For the Colemans, the dismissal of the charges spelled the beginning of the end to their life in
In the days that followed, a new round of vitriol made its way online.
“F--- yea. That’s what you get for bein a skank : ),” read one tweet, one of many expletive-filled
comments posted publicly.
The reaction wasn’t surprising, according to Julie Donelon, president of the Metropolitan
Organization to Counter Sexual Assault.
Some form of victim-blaming occurs in virtually every sexual assault case, she says, but it can be
particularly intense in small towns, where “the victim and her family members are having to see not
only the perpetrator and the perpetrator’s family, but also those people … who have expressed
disbelief in her story.”
The daily harassment became too much, Coleman says. Daisy and Logan transferred to Albany
High School, making the 80-mile round trip daily.
Initially, Coleman refused to consider leaving Maryville altogether — even after, she says, her lawyer
suggested it might be in the family’s best interest.
“Part of me is stubborn enough to stay just to say, ‘No, you’re not going to win,’” she says.
So it was not until August last year, she says, that she finally knew “this was never going to be OK.”
She went to Rice’s office for a deposition on the case’s lone remaining charge, Matthew Barnett’s
misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child for leaving Daisy in freezing temperatures.
After speaking with a rape advocate, the mothers had initially declined to participate for fear the
questioning would be used against them. They later changed their minds and agreed to meet with
According to Coleman, Daisy was excused from the room after briefly discussing the case. But for
the next two hours, she says, Rice proceeded to angrily ask her about the petition and demanded to
know where Coleman had heard that political favors might be involved.
Rice responds that he never raised his voice during the meeting. Sundell, who was also present,
adds: “It may have happened in a different room, when I wasn’t there, but not during the deposition.”
The misdemeanor endangerment charge, too, was soon dropped.
The sheriff blames the mothers for the lack of prosecutions: “They refused to speak and give their
story.” The women say they were eager to work with authorities until the felony charges were
That August, with Charlie off to Baker University and the younger children set to begin a new school
year, the family moved back to Albany — or as White, the sheriff, puts it, “went back to Gentry County,
where they came from.”
Even after leaving, however, it wasn’t over with Maryville.
Coleman still had a house there, unoccupied and up for sale — until that Sunday morning six
According to Capt. Phil Rickabaugh of the Maryville Fire Department, the cause of the fire wasn’t
“We started to dig in and investigate it,” he said, but the structure was deemed unsafe. “Several
weeks later, an insurance investigator came in, and it was heavily investigated by private parties.
(But) we never have heard anything else out of that.”
The cause, Rickabaugh says, remains unknown.
For the most part, things in Maryville have returned to normal.
The high school football team is off to its usual dominant start, sporting a 7-0 record following Friday’
s 50-10 win over Smithville. The college is preparing for its homecoming festivities, and the A&G
Restaurant still fills up quickly on Sundays after church.
Many in town are happy to put the episode behind them, including White, who makes little attempt to
mask his opinion of Coleman, a woman he says “clearly has issues.”
“We did our job,” he says. “We did it well. It’s unfortunate that they are unhappy.
“I guess they’re just going to have to get over it.”
Getting over it, it turns out, hasn’t proved all that easy.
Since that night in January, Daisy has been in regular therapy. She has been admitted to a Smithville
hospital four times and spent 90 days at Missouri Girls Town, a residential facility for struggling
Last May, shortly after returning home from college, Charlie found his sister collapsed in the family’s
bathroom, where she had ingested a bottle of depression medication.
It was her second suicide attempt in the past two years.
Though she agreed to appear in a segment for local radio station KCUR — “You’re the s-word, you’
re the w-word … b-word. Just, after a while, you start to believe it,” she said in the interview — she
has since declined to speak publicly about the incident.
The 13-year-old hasn’t fared much better, her mother says. Her child suffers from flashbacks and
nightmares and for a long time after the incident dragged her mattress into her brother’s bedroom at
Still, she says: “We didn’t suffer nearly what the Colemans did. (My daughter) had support here.
People believed us here.
“It’s been utter hell for Melinda,” she continues. “I didn’t have to lose my job over it. I didn’t have to
lose a house over it. I didn’t have to lose where I had gone to move on with my life. And she did.”
The young men present at the Barnett home that night, meanwhile, seem to have moved on.
Two are now members of Northwest Missouri State University athletic teams, and Barnett is enrolled
at the University of Central Missouri, his grandfather’s alma mater. Based on his Twitter account,
before it was locked to non-friends, the events of the past two years haven’t dampened his
enthusiasm for the opposite sex.
In a recent retweet, he expressed his views on women — and their desire for his sexual attentions
— this way:
“If her name begins with A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z, she wants the D.”
Seven months ago, The Star began looking into the 2012 case of two young teens who told
authorities they were sexually assaulted by older boys. The Star spoke extensively with the mothers
of the girls, interviewed dozens of others and reviewed hundreds of pages of records, from sheriff’s
office interviews with the accused to medical records. While most documents were sealed by
authorities, many were copied previously by the Coleman family and provided to The Star.
Though The Star’s policy usually is not to name alleged victims in sexual assault incidents, or cases
of attempts on one’s life, exceptions have been made in some cases. Daisy Coleman’s name
appears in this article with the permission and cooperation of the Coleman family.