To the Editor,
After reading the story in last week’s Maryville Forum about Melinda Coleman, I can no longer remain silent and felt compelled to write this letter.
When I saw the headline and then read the story, I had some mixed emotions, I of course felt angry that it has taken so long for someone to finally take some action. I also felt a bit of vindication and I couldn’t help but wonder if at least some of the people who were so quick to vilify not only me, but the entire community perhaps felt a bit foolish.
For those of you who have forgotten, let me refresh your memories. A few years ago Ms. Coleman made a call to the Sheriff’s Office to report that her daughter had been raped. As the then Sheriff, this case, as all cases was taken very seriously and was investigated vigorously. Over the course of time as criminal charges were filed and evidence examined, the case fell apart. All of the fingers pointed toward me and only me. Then as things were not already bad enough, the Colemans left town and their house mysteriously burned. If you listened to the Colemans and the national media, it was said that the community intentionally set the house on fire. I can only imagine the mob with pitchforks and torches marching to the house much like in one of the final scenes of Frankenstein.
Now that a little time has passed, let’s take a look at the truth (if you can handle the truth). On the Sunday morning that the Sheriff’s Office received the initial call, deputies and I responded without delay. Within four hours all of the suspects had been located and interviewed on videotape. All of the appropriate paperwork was submitted to the prosecuting attorney, arrest warrants were issued, and all of those people were arrested. All of the evidence was collected and sent to labs in St. Joseph and Kansas City. At this point it should be in the hands of the courts, but things are seldom as they seem.
As far as the fire goes, I don’t remember any mobs. I do remember trying to get the State Fire Marshall’s Office to investigate the fire. I personally found it strange that at the time of the fire, the Coleman family had abandoned the home. I also thought it odd that all of the kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities were missing from the home. However, the fire marshall said it was too dangerous and no investigation was done. I’m not sure how many fires you have to have before it raises an eyebrow but apparently the magic number is around four.
Am I the only one that finds it strange that the victim in this case was not allowed, (by her mother), to give a deposition? Isn’t it strange that Ms. Coleman then refused to allow her daughter to testify? I also wonder why Ms. Coleman found it necessary to hire not only one but four different lawyers to represent her? The prosecuting attorney represents the victim. It’s no surprise that the prosecutor made the decision to dismiss the charges. In our system of laws, you do have the right to face your accuser. Even after the case was given to a prosecutor out of Kansas City and a new investigation was conducted by the state it was determined that there was no case to pursue.
I’m sure that most of you remember the torture that this community went through. The name calling, the threats, and utter ignorance displayed by people that chose to believe the hype instead of looking at the facts. Yes, even people from within our own community. I personally received and still receive death threats and communication from people hoping that my daughters are raped. I had people that I thought were friends turn their backs on me. What was most disturbing is that at a time of crisis, when our community leaders should have been standing together most of them instead chose to hide under their desks. I was the only one who consistently defended this community and the good people that live here. When the prosecuting attorney had to face the sea of satellite trucks at the final press conference, I was the only one with the courage to stand with him. It was the right thing to do.
I must admit, I was very excited when I read the story. Over the weekend, I went to the courthouse where I anxiously awaited the satellite trucks to return and I had all of my signs ready for the protest that I knew would occur at any moment. Sadly, I was wrong. I guess justice isn’t for everyone. Oh, and as far as the movie goes, I’ve never seen it and I never will. I did not participate in it nor did I sign any releases. Any video of me was acquired without my knowledge. Perhaps in the future, people will learn to explore the facts instead of rushing to judgement. I just want to say I look forward to speaking with people as we approach the 2020 election cycle and no matter what the media says, this is still the greatest community in the world.
–– Darren White
Former Sheriff of Nodaway County