Wrongly accused

In tracking down a serial rapist, two detectives help 18-year-old victim prove she wasn’t lying

A compelling, deeply reported story from The Marshall Project and ProPublica released on Wednesday tells the story of how police in Lynnwood, Washington coerced an 18-year-old girl into confessing she’d lied about being raped, then sued her for making a false statement. The twist? She wasn’t lying at all.

Former foster child Marie, as she’s called in the piece, was bound to her bed with her own shoe laces, gagged and raped at knifepoint by an unknown man in her very first apartment. The assailant was strategic, but the police — tipped off by Marie’s former foster mother — assumed she was lying about the attack for attention. The Marshall Project tells the story of how two female detectives in Colorado worked to solve similar crimes against women and connected four rapes over a 15-month period across Denver’s suburbs by the end of January 2011. The serial rapist always wore gloves, blindfolded his victims, threatened them with a weapon, recorded the rapes on a camera stolen from one of his victims (whose ages ranged from teens to middle-aged widows), took their clothes and sheets, and forced the women to shower. Those pictures are what eventually lead the detectives to Marie, whose life was seemingly ruined by the false confession and subsequent lawsuit from the police.

Detective Stacy Galbraith and Detective Edna Hendershot worked together across precinct lines to find Army vet Marc O’Leary, who in 2011 pleaded guilty to 28 counts of rape and other felonies in Colorado and was sentenced to the maximum amount of time in prison allowed by law. He told law enforcement that he’d strategically chosen victims across different jurisdictions because he knew different departments didn’t communicate.

Read the full story at The Marshall Project.

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