A 14-year-old girl who accused a high school football player of rape was suspended from the cheerleading squad and twice attempted suicide.
After a 14-year-old girl accused a popular football player of rape, she and her family were driven from their small US town and their house mysteriously burned down.
Daisy Coleman, the alleged victim, has been named in publications and broadcasts with the permission of her mother Melinda, in order to draw attention to the case, the Kansas City Star reports.
In January 2012, in the 12,000-person Missouri town of Maryville, Daisy Coleman reported she had been raped by a popular 17-year-old boy from her school. She told police she was invited to a party where she had so much alcohol she could not stand, and had sex with the boy. The incident was partly filmed by one of the alleged perpetrator’s friends on his phone.
Daisy’s best friend, aged 13, also had sex with a 15-year-old boy. She told police she went into a bedroom with the 15-year-old boy, who was an acquaintance. The case was handled in juvenile court, but the Star accessed police records of his interview, in which he said although the girl said “no” multiple times, he undressed her, put a condom on and had sex with her.
The 17-year-old – the grandson of a longstanding local political figure – and his friends later allegedly left Daisy outside her front door in minus-5 degrees Celcius weather, wearing only a T-shirt and track pants. Daisy was discovered by her mother after several hours, her hair frozen and with frostbite on her extremities.
Undressing Daisy inside for a warm bath, Mrs Coleman saw “painful” redness around her daughter’s genitals. “Immediately,I knew what had happened,” Coleman says.
She phoned emergency services, who directed her to a hospital, where doctors observed small vaginal tears indicative of recent sexual penetration. The 13-year-old also attended hospital.
Police arrested two teenagers within hours and charged them with felonies, but a few weeks later the prosecutor dropped the rape charges, citing insufficient evidence.
Initial police inquiries resulted in the 17-year-old being charged with sexual assault, a felony, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, having admitted to having sex with Daisy and to being aware that she had been drinking. He insisted the sex was consensual.
The 17-year-old accused by Daisy was not charged with statutory rape, as in Missouri that law generally applies in cases when a victim is under 14 years old or the perpetrator is over 21. But statutes also define sex as non-consensual when the victim is incapacitated by alcohol. Hospital tests roughly seven hours after Daisy stopped drinking showed her blood alcohol content still at 0.13.
In addition to admitting his own sexual encounter with the younger girl, according to police records, the 15-year-old said the boys left Daisy “outside sitting in 30-degree [-1 degree Celcius] weather” – more dangerous with a high alcohol level in the bloodstream.
From him, investigators also learned about the film shot on a third boy’s film, leading to that boy’s felony charge of sexual exploitation of a minor.
By the time the police had concluded their 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,” Sheriff 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.”
Although sympathy initially was with the girls, a sizable number of people stood by the accused athletes and their families.
In an interview, the prosecutor who dropped the charges against the boys 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.”
For his part, Sheriff White 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.”
Daisy was soon subjected to cyber bullying, including victim-shaming. She was suspended from the cheerleading squad for her role in the night’s events and twice attempted suicide.
Mrs Coleman lost her job at a veterinary surgery. She says it was because the case put too much strain on work relationships in the clinic, while her boss says it was also a mismatched work ethos.
Veterinarian Sally Hayse told the Star: “This is a small community, and it definitely was stressful for us here, without a doubt.”
But, she said, “If you were to ask me point-blank (why Mrs Coleman was fired), I would say it’s because our style of medicine didn’t jive.”
Daisy’s three brothers were threatened and bullied at school, often by boys they had counted as friends. One of them was booed at his final wrestling match of the year.
Mrs Coleman felt she had no choice but to leave the town. Eight months later, in April, the house she was trying to sell burned down. Fire investigators have been unable to determine the cause but Melinda Coleman suspects arson.
Mrs Coleman had originally moved her family to Maryville in 2009 after the death of her husband, a doctor, in a car crash three years earlier. She hoped for a new start there.