On the night of Jan. 7, 2012, Daisy Coleman, then a 14-year-old freshman at Maryville High School in Missouri, was having a sleepover with her childhood friend Paige Parkhurst, only 13 years old at the time.
The girls say they watched TV and drank from a stash of alcohol in Coleman’s closet. At around 1 a.m., the two snuck out of the house to meet Matthew Barnett, a 17-year-old senior and popular football player at Maryville High, who along with another boy, drove the two girls back to Barnett’s house.
What ensued there, both girls say, was sexual assault. Felony and misdemeanor charges followed against two of the 17-year-old boys, including Barnett, but were dropped two months later by the Nodaway County Prosecutor. A 15-year-old boy was sentenced in juvenile court for assaulting Parkhurst. In the months that followed, both girls and their families say they have been subject to bullying, shaming and harrassment in the small, close-knit community.
A seven-month investigation into the allegations published in the Kansas City Star over the weekend has propelled the story from Maryville into the national spotlight, provoking the response of hacktivist network Anonymous and prompting calls for the local authorities to revisit the case.
Until today, Paige Parkhurst, now 15, had not been named nor had she spoken out publicly about her case. In this edited interview transcript, Parkhurst, along with her mother Robin Bourland, tells America Tonight's Lori Jane Gliha about the night that changed her life, why she has decided to come forward now and what she hopes will come from the incident.
What she says happened
Me and a friend, she lived in Maryville. I didn’t see her very often. I actually went to Maryville for the night to see her. We were just kind of having a fun time, catching up, all of that, and she had been texting a guy named Matt Barnett, and he wanted us to hang out with him. So we snuck out and went to hang out with him.
And we got there, and they just started handing her drink after drink after drink. And they had separated us as soon as we got there. And another boy that was there with me, had taken me into another room, and had sexually assaulted me, after me telling him no, pushing him away. And after he was done, he made me go back out into the living room with him, and we sat and waited until Matt was done with Daisy. And I had walked into Matt’s room, and she was incoherent. She couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, and just was talking like a baby pretty much.
... I was intoxicated before we left the house. She [Daisy] was also, but they gave her even more when she got there. They drug [sic] her out of his bedroom window, drug [sic] her to the car, and then they were going to drop us off, but they were freaking out, trying to think of how they were going to drop us off without any of her brothers waking up. And they took her and carried her to the back corner of her house and left her there. And they told me to go inside, that all she needed to do was to sober up, and that she would be okay, and they were gonna be there and watch her.
It was very scary. I was really confused and didn’t understand what was fully going on. I was in shock and really worried about my friend. It was freezing out. I don’t know. There was just a lot of things going through my mind.
Why she's speaking out now
I felt like I needed the story to come out from me also, and that I needed to be able to voice my opinion, along with my mother. We didn’t have this kind of support when everything happened, but now that we do have a lot of support and we do have people listening, it’s like a miracle. It feels really good that it’s finally getting spoken about. We’ve waited for this day for a very long time.
When the charges were dropped
We were cooperating with all of the big felony charges, but they had been really in a way harassing us, and they were constantly putting us down. They weren’t listening to us at all. They were really blaming us for it. They dropped all of the felony charges and then didn’t tell us about it. But then they wanted to pick up a misdemeanor, but our rape advocate told us not to go because it was going to be a very bad interview. ...
They were constantly putting us down. They were telling a lot of people a lot of things that weren’t true. They were telling Daisy that I was throwing her under the bus, and then telling me that Daisy was throwing me under the buss. I mean they were working really hard to try to get us angry at each other.
I was very angered. I didn’t see how someone could drop those charges when they had all of the evidence they needed, and at the beginning said that they had a very strong case, but then they dropped the charges, and I felt like they were getting off on something that they shouldn’t have been able to get off of.
'Not everyone in Maryville is bad'
I would have never guessed for this [response] to happen. It’s very uplifting, but then again it’s also very stressful, and there are a lot of issues that are going on that I would like to address through Maryville.
There’s been a lot of bullying to students that didn’t have anything to do with Maryville’s. And not everyone in Maryville is bad, and people have to remember that. So I would like to say all of my supporters not to be threatening them in any kind of physical way. They really have to realize that not everyone is at fault here.
What she wants
I would like justice to be done, and I would like to be able to know that there was something to be done, and that our voice didn’t go unheard.
The main message is to stop sexual assault and to stop cyber bullying and yes, I do love everyone who has been supporting us, but you also have to be civil with them, and bullying them ins’t going to do anything out of this. ...
I want other women and girls and men and boys not to be afraid to speak out against sexual assault. It is a very big epidemic in the world, and I just hope that other people can be brave enough to speak up when this happened to them.
And I’d also like to move forward and begin my life again, and to have known that there’s that piece of security of knowing that I at least tried to my best ability to have something done.
Remembering the bullying
It was really pretty heartbreaking. It just made you want to hide and not wanna say any more, and made you wanna back down. But I knew that I couldn’t back down, and that something had to have been done. But it is one of the worst feelings in the world to be called all of these things and to not understand why people wouldn’t listen to your side of the story and why they were being so rude.
…It was in various places. People just said that we were liars, that we weren’t someone to be hanging around, that all we wanted to do was get people in trouble for something that was our mistake.