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By Bill Draper
MARYVILLE, Mo. — The case of a 14-year-old girl who says she was raped by an older boy from her Missouri high school and left passed out on her porch in freezing temperatures is expected to get a fresh start under a special prosecutor.
A special prosecutor will be able to launch his own investigation, interview witnesses and work independently from the local prosecutor who’s faced intense scrutiny for dropping felony charges in the case last year, experts said Thursday.
“The idea is really to have a third party who is removed from the process, who can bring the appearance of objectivity and neutrality,” said Richard Reuben, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Law. “At the end of the day they would look like a prosecutor who is truly independent.”
The new prosecutor’s final decision carries high stakes: It could settle the debate over whether Rice was right to drop the charges, or validate the accusers’ outrage by pushing the case toward a trial.
Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice filed a motion Thursday for a judge to appoint a special prosecutor in the case, which has gained new attention and an outpouring of responses of social media following a Kansas City Star investigation.
The girl’s family also spoke out this summer to Kansas City radio station KCUR.
The case and the publicity has shaken the small college town of Maryville, where the girl’s mother, Melinda Coleman, said her family was forced to move after being harassed over the allegations.
Her house in Maryville burned down while the family was trying to sell it, but a cause hasn’t been determined.