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Melinda Coleman, mother of Daisy Coleman, dies 4 months after daughter's suicide

The Coleman family story became widely known after Daisy Coleman said she was sexually assaulted in 2012 at age 14 and later harassed online and in school.
"Audrie & Daisy" Premiere - 2016 Sundance Film Festival
Daisy Coleman and her mother, Melinda Coleman, in 2016Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

Melinda Coleman, whose late daughter, Daisy, was the subject of a 2016 Netflix documentary highlighting the challenges of life after sexual assault, died by suicide, according to an organization her daughter co-founded.

Tragically, the mother of four's death comes just months after Daisy Coleman took her own life at age 23 in August.

The organization that Daisy Coleman co-founded, SafeBAE, announced Melinda Coleman's death on its Instagram page late Sunday.

"We are in shock and disbelief to share with our SafeBAE family that we lost Melinda Coleman to suicide this evening," the organization said. "The bottomless grief of losing her husband, Tristan, and Daisy was more than she could face most days."

Melinda Coleman's husband, Michael, died in a car accident in 2009, according to the Kansas City Star. In 2019, her son Tristan, 19, also died in a one-vehicle crash in western Kansas; Melinda Coleman was in the car but survived, the Star also reported.

The post also offered a warning relating to suicide and sharing resources for people struggling with their mental health. SafeBAE seeks to prevent sexual assault among middle and high school students through peer-to-peer education, according to its website.

“She was one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met, to have lived the life she lived and have grown up in rural America and put herself through veterinary school at NYU," Shael Norris, SafeBAE's executive director, told TODAY. "She became a doctor, put her husband through school so he could become a doctor while having a baby every year for four years.”

Norris told TODAY Coleman, 58, was devoted to her children and sought to serve as a model of living through adversity. She is survived by two sons, Logan and Charlie.

"She wanted to teach her children that they could triumph over the circumstances they were dealt," Norris said. "She was profoundly divided between wanting to take care of her boys and desperately, desperately missing everything she’d lost.”

"I think she hung in there far longer than many people could have," she added.

Daisy Coleman and her mother, Melinda Coleman, attend the "Audrie & Daisy" premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2016, in Park City, Utah.Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

The Coleman family made headlines after Daisy, then 14, said she was assaulted by a 17-year-old high school student named Matthew Barnett at a house party in Maryville, Missouri, in January 2012. Daisy said she was harassed online and at school after she spoke out.

Barnett was charged with felony sexual assault, but the charge was eventually dropped. In January 2014, he instead pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment after authorities said he left Daisy outside her home in freezing temperatures while she was drunk and wearing only a T-shirt and sweatpants.

Daisy Coleman's family claimed the charges were dropped due to Barnett's family's political connections.

Daisy went on to work as an advocate for sexual assault survivors, co-found SafeBAE and share her story in "Audrie & Daisy," which was released on Netflix in September 2016.

Audrie Pott, the other figure in the documentary, also died by suicide 10 days after she was sexually assaulted in September 2012 in Saratoga, California.

In a phone conversation Monday, Norris said Melinda and Daisy's tragic story illustrated "the collateral damage of sexual violence."

“She was an incredibly resilient woman, and the circumstances of her life should never have played out this way," Norris told TODAY. "This is the stuff we’re not addressing or talking about. There isn’t an infrastructure in place to support family."