Missouri Girl Who Was Raped at 14 by Four Football Players Speaks Out; New Netflix Film Explores her Story and Others’

Best friends and cheerleaders Paige Parkhurst, then 13, (rightj) and Daisy , 14, (left) were raped in the basement of one of the high school's most popular footballers in 2012. Photo / Netflix
Best friends and cheerleaders Paige Parkhurst, then 13, (right) and Daisy , 14, (left) were raped in the basement of one of the high school’s most popular footballers in 2012. Photo / Netflix

Nothing remains of the house that once stood on the corner of South Scout Ridge Drive in Maryville, Missouri. Its footprint has been erased and work has begun on a new building in its place.

Investigators never established the cause of the enormous fire that ripped through the home in the spring of 2013. But to this day, Melinda Coleman suspects it was started deliberately, a parting shot from a community that wanted to see her family crumble.

The family had originally moved to Maryville from Albany, Missouri, about 65km away, in 2009 after Melinda’s husband and father to her four children, Dr Michael Coleman, was killed in a car crash. They had hoped to make new and better memories than those the town of Albany now held.

Instead, they found themselves at the center of a sexual assault case that shocked the nation, Daily Mail reports.

Now, the families devastated by the case that became shorthand for rape culture and victim blaming have spoken exclusively to DailyMail.com.

It has been five years since this small town was rocked by the traumatising case. Daisy Coleman, then 14, and her best friend Paige Parkhurst, 13, were raped in the basement of one of the high school’s most popular footballers, the scion of a well-connected political family.

Much of what happened on the night of January 8, 2012 is undisputed.

At about 1am Daisy and Paige were having a sleepover at Daisy’s house when they decided to sneak out – at the invitation of Matthew Barnett, now 22. His friends Jordan Zech, 24, Nick Groumoutis, 23 and Cole Forney, 22, were also present.

Daisy’s brother, Charlie, 23, regarded Groumoutis as his best friend but was wary of Barnett. He told her not to text him, but she ignored him.

The boys drove the girls 5km to Barnett’s home, stopping first at A&G, the restaurant owned by Groumoutis’ parents, to pick up a bottle of vodka. They climbed in the basement window of Barnett’s home to avoid detection by his parents.

Almost immediately the girls were separated. Barnett admitted having sex with Daisy – 14 is the age of consent in the state of Missouri – but said it was consensual and that Daisy did not drink heavily until afterwards.

Daisy recalled being offered a drink from what the boys called the “bitch cup” – a tall shot glass – then being offered a second and not remembering anything after that. Zech admitted videoing Barnett with Daisy.

He used Groumoutis’ cell phone but claimed he thought they were just “dry humping”. The video was deleted – after reportedly being passed around the school – but never retrieved by law enforcement.

Meanwhile, Paige has patchy memories of being taken into another bedroom by her rapist, who was an unnamed juvenile at the time.

He put on a condom and took off her clothes, then had sex with her, though she said no and told him to stop. The boy was a friend of hers.

Paige’s rapist confessed and was convicted in juvenile court, but it was only after a second investigation that Daisy’s alleged rapist was convicted in adult court on the lesser charge of child endangerment.

The case exploded on social media and when felony charges were dismissed amid allegations of corruption and political favour, the victims were mercilessly trolled and their families intimidated.

Five years on, the girls have revealed previously unknown details of the first investigation by then Nodaway Sheriff Darren White. They shared the harrowing ongoing impact that night in January 2012 has had on Daisy and Paige, and how it threatened their friendship as they each coped in very different ways.

They have also revealed the hope they now share for their future – one as a new mother, the other as a student, activist and victim advocate determined to convert her pain into something positive.

She has just returned from Texas, where she spoke to a crowd of students as co-founder of Safebae.org. She launched the organisation with two other girls who survived sexual assaults, and her older brother Charlie.

“After my case went viral I took a break for a while, but during that time period I noticed a lot of other victims and survivors had come forward. Seeing me doing it so publicly, I felt like that gave them a space to tell their own story and I was really inspired by that,” she said.

“So after meeting with three other women from Pave (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment), who were about the same age as I and had their own stories of assault, we decided to found our own organisation called Safebae and we tour high schools and colleges in the US and, if we ever get the funds, we’ll go out of the US.”

Her mission was only strengthened by her involvement in the documentary Audrie and Daisy. The film, on Netflix, is up for a prestigious Annie award for animation next month as the scenes of Daisy’s attack are depicted using animated illustrations drawn by art student Daisy herself.

She found it hard to watch – hard to listen to Sheriff White’s clear belief that Daisy and Paige were somehow as culpable as the boys – or his slippery note to camera that “teenage girls lie”.

But what Daisy found most difficult, she admitted, was that her own story is paired with that of Audrie Pott. The 15-year-old from Saratoga committed suicide when photos and video taken of her being sexually assaulted by male friends while passed out circulated her high school.

Daisy is all too aware that she and Paige could have had similar ends to their story. Both have tried to commit suicide – Paige twice, Daisy four times – and both have spent time as in-patients of juvenile psychiatric units.

Yet remarkably, Paige, now 18, and Daisy, say they have forgiven their attackers and harbour no resentment.

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SOURCE: Laura Collins
New Zealand Herald