On Monday, Maryville Mayor Jim Fall opened a city council meeting by declining to answer any questions regarding Saturday's Kansas City Star story about the sexual assault of a teenage girl, Daisy Coleman, in January 2012.
Coleman, then 14, was allegedly raped by a 17-year-old football player named Matthew Barnett, the grandson of a local politician, and left unconscious on her front yard in 22-degree weather. According to Daisy's mother, the Colemans reported the crime to the Nodaway County Sheriff's Department and were slowly driven out of town by hostile Maryville neighbors. Prosecutors eventually declined to pursue charges against Barnett.
On Monday, after a day of renewed interest in the case — particularly from a group of rabble-rousing Anonymous hackers — Fall said the city isn't and wasn't part of the investigation.
"Neither individually nor collectively has the Maryville Public Safety Department or any of its members been in the past nor currently is involved in the investigation of that incident or incidents which were the subject of those articles. That jurisdiction was assumed initially by the Nodaway County Sheriff's Department and eventually by the Nodaway County prosecuting attorney, and it remains there. Our city officials are concerned about the wellbeing of all involved, but there's no official involvement, and your understanding of that position will be appreciated."
In an interview with Duane Lester of The Missouri Torch after the meeting, Fall reaffirmed his position.
"Certainly we care about the welfare and wellbeing of our citizens, but as far as the official investigation or anything, we've not been involved in it," he said, adding that he was unaware of the "Justice For Daisy" event planned for Oct. 22 in Maryville to protest the county prosecutor's decision to drop charges against Barnett. As of 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, that event had more than 1,000 RSVPs on Facebook.
Despite Fall's insistence that the city isn't responsible for Coleman's case, calls for Fall to get involved continue:
Update: Maryville's City Manager Greg McDanel has also issued a statement, asking outsiders to "cease to rush judgment to condemn the City administration."
The City of Maryville, Missouri regrets that is has gained national and international attention as a result of this incidents and subsequent actions that followed.
This is a small community where everyone knows their neighbors, and caring for and protecting those around you are common practice, not the exception to the rule. We hope that people who are looking at this incident from afar will cease to rush judgment to condemn the City administration, its Public Safety Department and its citizens.
The actions of an isolated few are tarnishing the image of our city; a heartland city, a city where people built their lives from the ground up.
The investigation into this sexual assault case was not conducted by the City or the Maryville Public Safety Department. Our Public Safety Chief, Keith Wood, has faithfully served the City for 24 years, and his conduct is beyond reproach.
The outcome of this case lies not with the City of Maryville, but with the judicial system and the county prosecutor. In regards to the fire that destroyed the Coleman's home, it was fortunate that there was no loss of life.
Maryville's volunteer fire service responded to the burning home and did their best to extinguish the fire in short order. Unfortunately, the home was destroyed and due to its location, further investigation rests with the Nodaway County Sherriff's Office.
This is a devastating situation for all those involved. Young lives have been changed forever. Going forward, it is essential for our community, the State of Missouri, and the nation to come together to teach our children how to respect each other and themselves.
This was an unfortunate incident that has cast a shadow over the City of Maryville. We hope those who have been critical of the City and the community will realize we are good people, with good values, and allow the justice system to run its course so we all can find a peaceful resolution.
Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Jessica Testa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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