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Jackson County prosecutor will appear at hearing Thursday in Maryville sexual assault case

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, at 12:36 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at 2:24 p.m.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker will appear before a Maryville, Mo., judge Thursday and is expected to offer a status report on her investigation of a sexual assault case there.

Nodaway County Associate Circuit Judge Glen Dietrich appointed Baker as special prosecutor in October amid an international furor over the decision by the prosecutor there to drop the charges.

Daisy Coleman says she was sexually assaulted in January 2012, at age 14, by a high school senior in Maryville. Felony charges against two suspects were filed in the case but later dropped by Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert L. Rice. A misdemeanor charge also was dropped eventually.

The girl’s mother, Melinda Coleman, said political favoritism played a role in the decision to drop the charges, an accusation Rice has repeatedly denied.

Rice said he dropped the case because of a lack of evidence and cooperation on the part of the Colemans. Melinda Coleman said she stopped cooperating only after the felony charges were dropped.

Rice is a Republican. One of the alleged assault suspects, Matthew Barnett, is the grandson of a once-prominent Nodaway County Republican state legislator. The teen said the sex with Daisy was consensual.

Baker is a Democrat, as is the judge who appointed her.

At an Oct. 21 press conference announcing that she had accepted the special prosecutor appointment, Baker pledged to review the case “without fear and without favor.” She declined to answer questions during the session with reporters and begged the community for patience as she conducted her inquiry.

Since then, her office has declined to discuss the case or even hint at its progress.

The hearing notice, emailed to reporters Wednesday, did not say what would be discussed at the session but noted that “a press conference following the hearing is anticipated.”

Daisy Coleman, now 16, was hospitalized in Kansas City earlier this week after a suicide attempt, a family friend told The Star. Robin Bourland said Daisy ingested pills Sunday evening in an incident that stemmed from online harassment.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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