A teenage sex abuse case arising from an incident that happened in Maryville in early 2012 is stirring national headlines in print and on the Internet following an investigative report that appeared over the weekend in the Kansas City Star.
The January 8 incident and its aftermath, initially reported by local news media, including a series of three stories in the Maryville Daily Forum, was in connection with the alleged sexual assault of two teenage girls, both minors, one of whom has since been identified as Daisy Coleman, then 14.
Arrested following the alleged assaults were Jordan James Zech, then 17, and Matthew Bradley Barnett, also 17 at the time. Barnett lived at the house where the alleged crimes occurred during a party attended by several young people.
Barnett, the grandson of former state Rep. Rex Barnett, was charged with sexually assaulting Coleman who had reportedly been drinking.
Court documents stated that Barnett told authorities the sex was consensual. Zech was charged with exploiting a minor.
About two months after the initial investigation, Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice dropped the felony charges against both men because he said there was "insufficient proof" to proceed.
According to a probable cause statement filed by a Nodaway County deputy, Coleman told authorities she was too intoxicated to remember having sex with Barnett and was later left in the front yard of her home, where she remained outdoors for approximately two hours in sub-freezing temperatures before making her way inside.
In response to the Star's report and an investigation mounted by a pair of reporters from KCUR-FM, a Kansas City public radio station, the Anonymous organization — an amorphous network of Internet "hacktivists" — is reportedly mounting protests against the way the case was handled.
On Monday, Anonymous released an online statement in which a digitally produced voice warns Mayor Jim Fall and other city officials to "expect us."
Widely disseminated online, the statement continues: "If Maryville won’t defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if (the) justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them."
A Facebook post on a site called "Justice For Daisy," which may be Anonymous-related, called for a "peaceful protest" at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Nodaway County Courthouse.
In the wake of the arrest and the dropped charges, Daisy and her mother, Melinda Coleman, moved from Maryville to an adjoining county.
The house where they had lived on Scout Ridge Drive was gutted by fire in April of this year. No cause was determined.