New prosecutor chosen for Coleman case

A Missourian file photo from the 2013 protests for Daisy Coleman at the Nodaway County Courthouse. 

As social media strays away from criticism of Maryville, the case regarding the alleged rape of Daisy Coleman is in the hand’s of a woman with much experience.

The case was handed over to Jean Peters-Baker, Jackson County prosecuting attorney, after Bob Rice, Nodaway County prosecuting attorney, called for a special prosecutor to investigate the case during a press conference Oct. 15. This came after the Internet community and activist groups bombarded Rice’s office with these requests.

National attention was brought on to the case after the Kansas City Star reported an investigative story Oct. 13. Daisy Coleman said she was raped by a classmate, Matthew Barnett, in January 2012. Sheriff Darren White said the charges on Barnett and another alleged suspect were dropped because the Colemans refused to testify and invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, a statement the Colemans claim is false.

According to her personal website, Peters-Baker has been part of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office for nearly 15 years. She has been involved in putting some of the area’s most sought-after criminals behind bars. Peters-Baker has worked in nearly every unit for Jackson County, including sex crimes¸ community justice¸ domestic violence¸ drug-related crimes¸ family support and as a chief warrant officer and trial team leader.

Possibly the biggest case Peters-Baker has worked on, according to Mike Mansur, public information officer for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, resulted in the first criminal charges against a Catholic bishop in the history of the United States.

Bishop Robert Finn was charged with failure to report child abuse. This charge was levied after it was established that Finn knew about, but failed to report, hundreds of photographs of children on the laptop of Father Shawn Ratigan, who was charged with child pornography.

“Jean has worked on a number of the city’s biggest cases,” Mansur said. “She has worked on many cases, including those of rape, during her 15 years with us.”

In 2000, Peters-Baker was named Rookie Attorney of the Year. She has also been coordinator for the Drug Abatement Response Team in Jackson County. During her time as coordinator, she headed an effort to close drug houses as well as motels that were known to be hotbeds of illegal drug activity. She was honored with the Excellence Award for Advancing the Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax Objectives program for her efforts in the Kansas City drug trade.

Peters-Baker has received many other rewards in her time with Jackson County, such as Victim Advocate of the Year in 2005,

Peters-Baker has declined to comment about the case since being named the special prosecutor Oct. 21. The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office is also not releasing any findings or steps that have surmounted at this time.

On Oct. 21, Peters-Baker released the following statement.

“I was informed late this morning by the Circuit Court in Nodaway County, Mo., that my office was being named as special prosecutor in the Maryville, Mo., case. I immediately gathered a team of prosecutors, victims’ advocates and investigators to begin our own process to review this matter.

We are today obtaining files from authorities in Maryville. And we will begin our review of the evidence in this case as soon as all those documents are in-house here.

I would like to say that I am honored that our office can be of service to the citizens of Nodaway County, just as I am sure they would for Jackson County. My office has prosecuted many similar cases. And we understand that this case has raised numerous and varied concerns in Northwest Missouri.

But, as I directed my staff earlier today, we will go about our review of this case as we go about any case. It will be a thorough review without fear or favor. Until we delve into the particulars, we will have no idea how long it will take to complete that review. And we have no idea what the result will be.

I will be involved in directing this review. But a number of highly experienced prosecutors, investigators and others will also take part. Finally, I do wish to beg for the community and the media’s indulgence. This process must, for now, be a very internal one. My office will not be commenting about the case as we undertake our review. I also ask that you respect the privacy of the witnesses and victims in this case.

I will be unable at this time to answer any questions.”

As of now, Peters-Baker and her team are continuing to investigate and review all the evidence. It is unsure as to the team’s progress or findings at this time.

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