When it comes to the game of life, some people are dealt difficult cards. Daisy Coleman was dealt a stack full of tragedy. However, what she did with the hand she was given has inspired other victims to speak up and share their own stories. Still, there is a long way to go
Who Was Daisy Coleman?
Daisy was born on March 30, 1997, to Melinda and Michael Coleman. Melinda was a veterinarian and Michael was a physician, so the family was doing really well for themselves. They bought an old Victorian family home to renovate and it was truly their dream home.
Daisy had three brothers, Charlie, Tristan and Logan. She grew up in the quiet little city of Albany, Missouri. Before a series of tragic events would lead her down a dark path, she was an incredibly happy little girl with the world at her fingertips.
However, that would begin to change when Daisy was just 9 years old. Along with her brother Logan and her father, she was in a car accident while on their way to a wrestling match. After hitting a patch of black ice, they skid off the road and crashed. Daisy and Logan were okay, however, Daisy’s father was killed. As you can imagine the family was devastated. They had to carry on without their loving father and even had to drive passed the site of the car crash every day. It was too much to handle, so Daisy, her brothers and her mom decided to pick up and started fresh in the nearby town of Maryville, Missouri, just 40 miles away. They kept their family home in Albany and decided to rent a home in Maryville — just in case they ever decided they wanted to return home.
Melinda, Daisy’s mom, would later say:
“Even though it was sad to leave, in some ways it was a huge weight off our shoulders. Just to be anonymous, in a way.” | Source: The Sun
Unfortunately, they would never really get that fresh start and that weight would never really be lifted.
Maryville is a small town where everybody knows everybody and everyone knows everybody’s business. Sports, and especially football, are everything to Maryville, and the high school football team has somewhat of a celebrity status.
The family initially settled in well. Charlie and Logan played sports. The beautiful blonde Daisy won trophies at local beauty pageants and became a member of Maryville High’s cheerleading team.
Then on Saturday, January 7, 2012, Daisy invited her best friend, 13-year-old Paige, to the family home for a sleepover. The girls were watching horror movies and sneaking sips of alcohol. It was totally innocent, the two girls trusted each other, and they felt safe in Daisy’s home. It would have felt like an okay time to try alcohol. That night, she received a text from a popular senior football player, named Matt Barnett, who was actually friends with and played football with her older brother Charlie. The two were texting back and forth when Matt asked her to come over, saying he would pick the girls up from their home shortly. Matt Barnett was 17 years old at the time, so three years older than Daisy and four years older than Paige.
Around 1 a.m., the girls snuck out of the house and got in his car. They would later say they knew it was wrong, but they thought it was cool that an older guy wanted to hang out. She probably also thought she could trust him, this guy was her brother’s friend after all. Once he took the girls to his house, they were handed a tall glass of clear liquid. They didn’t know what the liquid was, but it would turn out to be alcohol. Daisy would later say that she tried to drink it all so she would impress him. And that was the last thing she would remember from that night.
It was a freezing 23-degree morning when Daisy’s mom Melinda heard scratching at the family front door. She initially thought it could be a dog. Instead, Melinda found a barely conscious Daisy sprawled on the front porch. Frozen. Blue in the lips. She lay for three hours wearing nothing but yoga pants and a t-shirt. She carried her daughter inside for a warm bath but found red marks on her body.
When Daisy began crying, Melinda said she immediately knew what had happened. Her mother took her straight to the hospital, where doctors confirmed their worst fears. Daisy had been assaulted.
They went to the police to file a police report and Matt Barnett — whose grandfather had been a leading local politician — was arrested and charged with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. He insisted that their encounter was consensual. That Daisy was fine and she wasn’t too intoxicated. During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Daisy’s friend page, who was only 13 years old at the time, had also been assaulted by another boy at the Barnett home.
It also emerged one of the boys at the house had filmed the incident on an iPhone and there were already several people who had seen the video on the phone.
Still Maryville Sheriff Darren White said was confident he had compiled a case that would “absolutely” result in prosecutions. He said,
“Within four hours, we had obtained a search warrant for the house and executed that. We had all of the suspects in custody and had audio/video confessions.” | Source: DailyDot.com
In the police reports, the boys all admit that Daisy was unconscious, she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t move, she couldn’t walk and they carried her to the car and they carried her to the yard. They just left her out in the cold like a piece of trash.
You would think that this sounds like an open-and-shut case right? Wrong. Daisy tried to keep a low profile at school as the police investigated Matt and his friends. But because Matt was such a popular guy at school, people relentlessly attacked Daisy nonstop on Facebook and Twitter because they thought she was lying. They said horrible things, even taunting her to take her own life.
There were reports the iPhone footage of the incident was being passed around. Mysteriously this video had been deleted and officials would later go on to say the video could not be recovered. All the while, Daisy and her family suffered vile attacks on social media from both kids and adults. One girl arrived at a local dance competition wearing a homemade shirt saying, “Matt 1, Daisy 0”.
Daisy wasn’t the only one getting all of the backlash. Melinda was fired from her job at Maryville’s Southpaws Veterinary Clinic as a veterinarian because they didn’t want to deal with all of the negative attention. Daisy was suspended from her high school’s cheerleading team, suffered depression and attempted to take her own life.
Two months after the assault allegations, prosecutor Robert Price dropped all charges citing a lack of evidence.
Shortly before the announcement, Melinda reportedly received a telephone call from a friend with political connections telling her that “favours were being called in” to ensure that charges were dropped.
Matt Barnett’s grandfather, Rex who was a Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper before serving four terms as Republican State Representative, denied using his influence to have the charges against the boys in this case dropped. Even though the evidence seemed to be overwhelming, Matt Barnett was not charged with statutory rape. Missouri law generally applies in cases when a victim is under 14 years old. However, felony statutes define sex as non-consensual if the victim is incapacitated by alcohol.
Matt Barnett pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanor child endangerment, but not to a felony sexual assault charge. Ultimately, he was sentenced to four months in jail, which was then commuted to two years probation.
Even after the case was closed, the online abuse at Daisy’s expense continued. The harassment of the Coleman family got so bad that they planned to leave Maryville to return to their family home, but the family home they left behind mysteriously burned down. Daisy struggled, barely having the energy to get out of bed, let alone go to school and practices, but the family had nowhere to turn.
Eventually, her brothers convinced her to start wrestling again, this time on their team - and because her brothers were on the team, wrestling became a safe, family-like escape from reality, and she felt like she had taken back some of the control that she had lost.
Daisy went on to dedicate her life to advocating for survivors of sexual assault. She founded a peer-to-peer organization, SafeBAE, to raise awareness of sexual assault in middle and high schools. HuffPost named Coleman as one of the “13 most Fearless Teens of 2013”. Even as she fought tirelessly for others, putting on a strong face through it all, she continued to struggle with mental health. It was always an uphill battle that she was bravely taking on each day.
And then, tragedy struck again. Her brother, Tristan Ash Coleman, passed away in June of 2018 from a car accident when he was just 19 years old. He was on his way home from helping his sister move to Colorado Springs when he was involved in an accident.
In an Instagram post, Daisy said Tristan was her “best friend”, adding,
“But I’ll never stop loving you. You’ll never stop being my best friend. My baby brother you’ll always be.” | Soure: Instagram
On August 4th of 2020, Daisy’s mom called the police to do a welfare check on her. Daisy spoke with the police and crisis prevention paramedics for more than an hour — but never said or did anything indicating she wanted to harm herself. Because of this, Daisy could not legally be held for mental health problems, and she was cleared by medics. Just hours later, however, police reportedly got a call from a female friend in the same apartment building around 8:30 pm that Daisy had taken her life. Daisy’s body was found in her apartment that evening. She was only 23 years old.
A Stalker in Daisy's Life
You’re likely thinking that a lot of this has to do with all of the tragedies that occurred in her short life, and you may be right. But there are a lot of strange circumstances leading up to her death. Her friends say that just prior to her death, she had been stalked and harassed by a man for months. On her Twitter and Facebook, she would write that police knew about her complaints of alleged stalking and harassment by the same man, which, according to her, had occurred since December.
She said she was afraid to leave her house to walk her dogs or go to work. She wrote she was not eating or sleeping well because she was so alarmed by the alleged ongoing harassment.
She said the man had shown up at her house repeatedly and pounded on her door. She also wrote she believed he had managed to steal keys to her apartment and had tried to directly access her apartment. Apparently, he had also put her personal telephone number in craigslist ads soliciting adult service.
Daisy filed a police report on the day of her death. When officers arrived at her home to perform a welfare check, she filed a report of stalking and harassment. This was merely hours before she took her own life. It's unclear whether there was a connection between what happened to her when she was 14 and this stalker.
Now, unfortunately, the tragedy does not stop there.
Melinda Coleman, Daisy’s mother, would take her own life just four months after her daughter’s death, on December 8th, 2020. Just hours before her death, Melinda posted a series of posts and pictures of Daisy to her Facebook page.
Then, on November 18, 2020, two weeks before her death, she wrote:
‘Albany wins. I’m dead’ , which is an apparent reference to her Missouri hometown, where Daisy was shunned after her attack.
A Tragic Family Story
The events that happened to the Coleman family were much more than any should have to bare. Charlie and Logan are the only remaining living members. They lost their father in a car crash, their brother in a car crash, his sister by suicide and his mother by suicide. Now they must pick up the pieces and carry on as best as they can.
We cannot let this be Daisy Coleman’s legacy. Watch her documentary, Audrie & Daisy. Hear her words. Be an advocate for other men and women like her, because this still happens every single day.
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