District attorney seeks special prosecutor in Missouri teen rape case

Oct. 17, 2013 at 4:18 PM
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MARYVILLE, Mo., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- A county prosecutor in Missouri has asked for a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by a 17-year-old high school athlete.

Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice, at a news conference Wednesday, said the most serious charges in the case were dismissed because the victim and her mother stopped cooperating with police, The Kansas City Star reported. Melissa Coleman, who first reported her daughter's alleged rape in early 2012 denies that, saying they asserted their Fifth Amendment rights after the felony charges were dropped.

Rice said he will ask a judge to name a special prosecutor.

Melissa Coleman said she found her daughter outside on a freezing night, drunk and almost unconscious. Melinda Coleman, who was then 14, said that Matthew Barnett, who was 17 at the time, got her drunk, sexually assaulted her and eventually dropped her outside the family home in Maryville.

Barnett, now a student at the University of Central Missouri, is a member of a prominent local family. He has denied sexual assault and saying the sex was consensual.

Coleman said she welcomed Rice's decision.

"I feel like that's just so great," she told The Star. "Because at least we're getting a fair shot. At least our story's getting heard and not just swept under the rug."

Coleman, a veterinarian, says she moved away from Maryville because her daughter was being harassed. While she was trying to sell her former home, it burned down.

The case made national headlines after the Star ran a major story on it Sunday. Local officials reported receiving thousands of e-mails and phone calls, most of them demanding the case be reopened.

Another 17-year-old was charged with Barnett for allegedly videotaping his encounter with Melinda, and a 15-year-old was charged as a juvenile with having sex with her 13-year-old friend.

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