The story of Marie Adler

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In September of 2019, Netflix released a one-season true crime drama called Unbelievable, starring Kaitlyn Dever & Toni Collette. The show was based on the true story of 18-year-old Marie Adler; Marie is actually the victim’s middle name – her full name has never been revealed & it is not even known if Marie is her middle name. In court documents, she is identified as D.M.

On August 11, 2008, 18-year-old Marie Adler was sleeping; it was just before dawn when she was attacked at knifepoint by a masked man in her Lynnwood, Washington apartment. 

Marie’s childhood was anything but ideal; it lacked any stability as she moved from foster home to foster home since age six or seven. She had little remembrance of her biological mother who mostly left Marie in the care of her boyfriends. She had two brothers & a sister & was often separated from her siblings. As Marie became a teenager, her life had more stability; a foster family planned to adopt her & she was making a lot of friends. On her first day of high school, Marie was told that her foster family had lost their foster care license & could no longer adopt her nor could she live with them. Marie was devastated; she had twenty minutes to pack her things & leave.

Marie moved in with Shannon McQuery & her husband until a permanent living situation could be arranged. Shannon described Marie as being funny & goofy, able to laugh despite all she had been through. She enjoyed school & kept in touch with previous foster families. As much as Shannon would have liked to have continued to keep Marie, she realized it was too much responsibility so after a couple of weeks, Marie moved in with Peggy Cunningham; Marie was Peggy’s first foster child. Marie remained close with Shannon who would joke that she & Peggy were raising Marie together. When Marie turned 17 she decided to leave her school to get her GED. As she turned 18, Peggy found Project Ladder, a new program designed to help those that had grown up in foster care transition to living on their own. They provided subsidized housing that included a one bedroom apartment.

Things were looking up as Marie moved into the first home that was only hers; she got a job offering food samples at Costco.

Shortly before 9am on the morning of August 11th, two Lynnwood police detectives responded to the Alderbrook Apartments after receiving a reported rape. When they arrived, they found that police were protecting the crime scene & a K-9 officer was using his dog in hopes of picking up a scent. As detectives Sgt Jeffery Mason & Jerry Rittgarn entered the apartment, they found Marie on the couch, wrapped in a blanket & crying on & off. She was with her foster mom, Peggy Cunningham & a case manager with Project Ladder, Wayne Nash. 

Marie told police that she had been talking with her friend Jordan on the phone for much of the night. After finally getting to sleep, she woke to a man with a knife in her bedroom. The man bound and gagged Marie, blindfolded & raped her. She believed that he had worn a condom during the attack. When they asked Marie to describe the man, she could only offer a couple of details; white man, gray sweater. She said the whole thing was a blur; it felt like it lasted a long time, but she couldn’t be sure. Marie told police that her attacker took photos of her & threatened to post the photos online if she went to police.

After the man left, Marie managed to use her feet to retrieve scissors from the bottom drawer of a cabinet since her hands were still bound; she cut herself free & tried calling her friend Jordan who didn’t answer. She then called her foster mom, Peggy & then her upstairs neighbor who came down to Marie’s apartment & called 911.

At this point in time, Sgt Mason was 39-years-old & had spent most of his years in patrol and narcotics. He had been hired by Lynnwood in 2003 after he received a medal of valor from a small police department in Oregon. After working in narcotics in Lynnwood, he was promoted to sergeant & transferred to the Criminal Investigations Division, only six weeks before Marie’s report of assault.  Prior to this, he had only covered one or two rape cases & in this investigation, he was in the lead. 

Sgt Rittgarn had been with the department for 11 years & working the last 4 as a detective. In 2008, Marie’s case was one of 10 rape cases that the department fielded. Because there were so few, they didn’t have a separate sex crimes unit. By this time, sex crime specialists had developed protocols to recognize the challenging & sensitive aspects of rape cases. These investigators are instructed to never assume that a rape victim should act a specific & certain way; some may be hysterical while others can be surprisingly calm.  Victims may not show signs of physical injury & should also not be expected to recall every detail of their attack. 

Rape victims should never be interogated or threatened with a lie detector test as these tests are especially unreliable when used on those who have been traumatized. They can also cause distrust between a victim & police. Many states bar police from using them with rape victims. 

As police investigated Marie’s apartment, they found the rear sliding glass door unlocked & slightly ajar. The door led to the back porch that had a wooden railing that was covered with dirt except for a portion that was about three feet wide & looked as if someone had brushed against the surface while climbing over. Officers also found a shoelace on Marie’s bed that may have been used to bind her. A second shoelace was located on the top of a computer monitor that had been tied to a pair of underwear for an apparent blindfold or gag.  Both shoelaces were from Marie’s black tennis shoes that were in the living room.  A knife with a black handle was found next to the bed & Marie told the officers that it was her knife that had come from the kitchen; this was the weapon the attacker used to threaten her. Marie’s purse was found on the bedroom floor, her wallet on the bed with her learner’s permit which had been removed & placed on the bedroom’s windowsill. 

Sgt Mason told Marie that she needed to go to the hospital for a sexual assault exam & she left with Peggy & her case manager. During this time, officers continued to process the crime scene. The K-9 dog had been unable to track anything that helped identify the rapist.  While at the hospital, Marie was tested for a number of sexually transmitted diseases & also given antibiotics for potential exposure to STDs as well as an emergency contraceptive pill.

The medical report identified abrasions to Marie’s wrists & to her vagina as well as bruising on her right wrist. Marie’s former foster mom, Shannon, recalls getting the call from Marie & being told that she was raped. She said Marie was without any emotion, it was as if she told her that she had made a sandwich. Because Marie wasn’t hysterical; Shannon wondered if Marie was telling the truth. The next day, Shannon saw Marie at her apartment & found it strange when Marie didn’t make eye contact with her or hug her as she normally did. She felt that Marie was acting casual as if nothing traumatic had just happened. She remembers that when they were outside, Marie was on the grass, rolling around laughing. Since Marie’s bedding had been taken as evidence, the pair went to buy new bedding & Marie became furious when she was unable to find the same set. Shannon wondered why Marie would want the same set, believing it would just be a reminder of the awful thing that happened.

Peggy was also taken aback by Marie’s behavior. When they spoke on the morning of the attack, before police had arrived, she was crying & could barely be heard; Peggy said, “Her voice was like this tiny voice & I couldn’t  really tell. It didn’t sound real to me.. It sounded like a lot of drama, too, in some ways.” Peggy had recently gotten two new foster teens who were sisters & before Marie’s attack, she had gone with them on a picnic. Peggy felt that Marie spent the afternoon trying to get attention & wondered if something similar was happening now, this time, much more drastic & desperate. 

When Peggy got to the apartment, she found Marie on the floor, crying. Peggy felt that as Marie told her the story of what had happened, it was like a script from Law & Order. She wondered why a rapist would use a shoelace to tie her up. She felt that as Marie talked, she seemed very detached & emotionally removed. 

Peggy & Shannon spoke on the phone about their doubts of Marie’s story despite the fact that neither knew Marie to be a liar. She would exaggerate or want attention, but not lie 

On August 12, the day after Marie reported being raped, Sgt Mason received a phone call from someone who told him that Marie had a past history of trying to get attention & this person was questioning if the rape had actually occurred.  The report didn’t identify the caller but it was Peggy. After receiving the call, Mason went to speak with her in person & she requested that she remain anonymous, not wanting it to get back to Marie. Peggy said, “I was trying to be a good citizen, actually. You know? I didn’t want them to waste their resources on something that might be, you know, the personal drama going on.”

Around this time, Mason had also been told that Marie wasn’t happy in her apartment & may have made up the story so she could get moved to a new one.  The following day, August 13th, Marie came to the Lynnwood PD to meet with Mason & provide her written statement, describing her attack. It was one page in length & Mason noted that Marie wrote that the attacker told her she could untie herself once he left. 

After he left I grabbed my phone (which was right next to my head) with my mouth & I tried to call Jordan back. He didn’t answer so I called my foster mom.. She came right away. I got off the phone with her & tried to untie myself.

Mason found that this wasn’t consistent with what Marie had previously reported, saying that she had tried calling Jordan after the laces had been cut. In her written statement, she was still bound when she made the call. 

Later that day, Mason spoke with Rittgarn about the discrepancies in Marie’s reports as well as the conversation with Peggy & at this point, he had made the decision that Marie had made up the story.

There is a long history of fear of false false rape accusations in the legal system; in the 1600s , England’s chief justice, Matthew Hale warned, that rape “is an accusation easily to be made & hard to be proved & harder to be defended by the party accused.” U.S. judges would read these “Hale warnings”  to juries until the 1980s though recent research suggest that false reports are relatively rare & FBI figures show that police declare that annually 5% of rape cases are unfounded or baseless. Social scientists that examine police records in detail cite similar, single-digit rates. 

The following morning, August 14th, Mason went to interview Jordan at his home. Jordan told him that the two had stopped dating a couple months prior though remained friends. He did not voice any doubt in Marie’s story, according to Mason’s written report. He did indicate that Marie told him that she had to use her toes to call him because she was still tied up. Later that day, Mason asked Marie if they could meet to talk; he told her he would pick her up & they could go to the station together. She sounded worried & asked if she was in trouble. 

At 3:30pm Mason & Rittgarn went to pick Marie up & found her outside her apartment, sitting in the grass. When they got to the conference room at the station, Mason confronted Marie about the inconsistencies between her statements as well as those from other witnesses. She went through  her story again & this time said that she believed the rape happened instead of saying that it did happen. She spoke of her troubled childhood in foster care, being raped at age 7, getting her own apartment & feeling lonely. Rittgarn told Marie that the evidence didn’t match her story & as far as he was concerned, she was making it up. He asked her if there really was a rapist running around on the loose & Marie responded, “no.” Her eyes were cast down & her voice was soft; Rittgarn wrote that her answer & body language made it apparent that she was lying about the rape. 

The detectives asked Marie to write the true story, admitting that she had lied, thus committing a crime. She was left alone & her letter read:

I was talking to Jordan on the phone that night about his day and just about anything. After I got off the phone with him, I started thinking about all the things I was stressed out & I also was scared of living on my own. When I went to sleep I dreamed that someone broke in & raped me.

The detectives noted that Marie described the rape as a dream vs. a lie. When they asked her why she didn’t write that she made the story up, she told them that she believed that the rape really happened. She pounded her fist on the table & said that she was “pretty positive.” She thought that maybe it had happened & she had blacked it out. They questioned the difference in how she said she called Jordan vs. how Jordan said he was told it happened. They also focused on the fact that Marie said she was stressed out & feeling lonely & asked her to re-write her statement. 

I have had a lot of stressful things going on & I wanted to hang out with someone & no one was able to so I made up this story & didn’t expect it to go as far as it did.. I don’t know why I couldn’t have done something different. This was never meant to happen. 

Rittgarn later wrote that they were confident that Marie was now telling the truth & that she had not been raped. 

The following day, Marie called her case manager, Wayne Nash, told him that the police didn’t believe that she had been raped & said that she needed a lawyer. The Project Ladder managers contacted police who filled them in on what was happening

One week after Marie reported being raped, on August 18th, she met with Project Ladder managers & told them that she had signed the recantation under duress. They all went to speak with police together so that Marie could tell them that her initial story was the truth. 

She spoke with Rittgarn & another officer, telling them that she had visions of the attacker on top of her & insisted that she wanted to take a lie detector test. They told her that if she failed, they would have to take her to jail & that they would recommend that Project Ladder pull her housing assistance. This caused Marie to back down & when she came back to the Project Ladder reps & they asked her if she had been raped, she told them no. 

Project Ladder managers told that she would have to confess to someone else if she wanted to stay in the program & keep her subsidized housing. A meeting was called later that day at the housing complex with all of Marie’s peers, gathered in a circle & she told them, as she was directed to, that no one had raped her & they didn’t have to worry that anyone would hurt them next. 

After leaving the meeting, Marie walked toward a friend’s house feeling alone & desperate, even considering ending her own life as she walked over a bridge. Later that month, a letter arrived, notifying Marie that she needed to report to court as she had been charged with false reporting which was punishable up to a year in jail & the citation was signed by Sgt Mason & sent to a small Lynnwood law firm. 

The statistics are unclear as to how often police arrest women for making false rape reports or how often they are taken to court as this data is not collected. Charges are rarely pursued, typically in a very public case where a person’s reputation is at stake. Marie’s life was under great stress; she had left her job at Costco & Project Ladder instilled a 9pm curfew & doubled the number of times she needed to meet with staff. 

Her story was reported in the media though she wasn’t named. A friend from high school created a website, calling Marie a liar & used her photo from her MySpace page, using her  full name. When Marie found out about this, she went into a frenzy & destroyed her apartment. She emotionally shut down at this time, no longer attending church & losing interest in her passion of photography. She feared leaving her home, imagining that someone was following her, she no longer slept in her bedroom, instead slept on the couch, leaving the lights on. She became severely depressed, gaining weight, smoking & drinking, her mind spiraling back to her abusive childhood. 

Shannon & Peggy stayed in touch though Marie knew that they both doubted her story.

In early October, two months after Marie was charged with false reporting, a 63-year-old woman in Kirkland, east of Seattle reported being raped in her home, about 16 miles from where Marie lived. He wore gloves, tied her up with her shoelaces, had a knife, took pictures of her & threatened to post them to the internet. She said for the previous two to three months, she felt as if she was being followed. Shannon heard this story; her father had been the chief of police in nearby Kent so being comfortable with police, she called & recounted the similarities between the two cases.

Shannon advised Marie to contact the police though she didn’t due to fear. She went online & read the women’s story & sobbed. After a Kirkland detective called Shannon back & was told about the similarities of Marie’s attack, they contacted the Lynnwood PD. When they did, they told them that there was no victim as the story had been made up. 

On March 12, 2009, Marie went to the courthouse, accompanied only by her public defender. Marie had never felt more alone; a high school classmate of hers had called her, asking how she could possibly lie about something so terrible. Her foster parents doubted her. She doubted herself, questioning what had actually happened. News articles claimed that she had cried wolf & now she was at risk for going to jail for up to a year. 

The prosecution’s office had an offer; if she sought mental health counseling & had supervised probation & covered the $500 court costs,the charges would be dropped. She agreed to the deal. 

Just about two years later, on January 5, 2011, an investigation began in Golden, Colorado about a 26-year-old woman who said she had been raped in her apartment. She was an engineering student at a local college on winter break; the night before, she was home alone watching TV & dozing on the couch. The next morning at 8am, she was jolted awake by a man jumping on her back, pinning her to the bed. His face was covered by what looked like a black scarf fastened into a mask & he held a gun. He carried a black bag with thigh-high stockings, clear plastic high heels with pink ribbons, lubrication, moist towelettes & bottled water. He raped her repeatedly over the next four hours & recorded the attack with a digital camera, threatening to post the pictures if she went to police. After, the man ordered her to take a shower & brush her teeth & by the time she came out of the bathroom, he had left. Before he did, he showed her how he had broken into her apartment through the sliding back door & advised her to get a dowel to put in the track to prevent future intruders from entering.

She was able to tell police that the man had a dark mark on his leg the size of an egg. Detective Stacy Galbraith drove the women to the hospital for a forensic exam. The woman told Galbraith that she felt that this man was practiced & had likely done this before. 

Later that night, Detective Galbraith recounted the details of her day at work with her husband, David, who was also a police officer. As she told the story, it seemed familiar to him & told her to call his department first thing in the morning. She emailed Detective Edna Hendershot of the Westminster PD; when she read the email, she immediately thought of a case from five months earlier when a 59-year-old woman had been asleep in her home when a man jumped on her back wearing a black mask. He tied her hands, took pictures of her & made her shower after. He advised her not to leave her windows open in the future. It also brought to mind a similar case of a 65-year-old woman who had been raped in her apartment by a man with a scarf around his face; he tied her hands with a ribbon & took photos of her, threatening to post them. During the attack, he knocked a yellow teddy bear off the desk in her room. She told him he should get help & he responded that it was too late for that.

Between one-fourth & two-thirds of rapists are serial attackers. A week later, Galbraith, Henderson & Scott Burgess, Aurora detective, met to discuss the similar cases & collaborate in finding this rapist. The 26-year-old woman in Galbraith’s case remembered many details from her attack; the man had used a pink Sony digital camera to take her photos which fit the model of the camera taken from the apartment of the 59-year-old Westminster victim.

Golden, Colorado PD reviewed surveillance tapes from the 26-year-old’s apartment complex, watching 12 hours of blurry footage as 261 cars came & went the night of the attack. They noted a white Mazda pickup truck during the pre-dawn hours that had appeared about ten times; however, the license plate was unreadable. As the months passed without a solid lead, they reached out to nearby departments looking for similar crimes. The PD in Lakewood, Colorado had an incident that happened one month before the Westminster attack. Initially it was labeled a burglary though on closer inspection was likely a failed rape attempt & the attacker very closely resembled the description of the rapist.

The report showed that a 46-year-old artist was attacked in her home by a man with a knife who wore a black mask. He attempted to bind her wrists though when he looked away, the woman jumped out of her bedroom window, breaking three ribs & puncturing a lung in the 7 foot drop to the ground as the man managed to escape. As police combed the scene for evidence, they found shoe prints outside her bedroom window & honeycomb marks on a window. Similar honeycomb prints were found at the Westminster crime scene & they matched these; detectives found they were from Under Armour gloves sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Honeycomb prints from the gloves

The footprints matched with those found in the snow outside the apartment of the attack in Golden, Colorado & were matched with a pair by Adidas ZX 700 mesh shoes that had been available in stores after March 2005. 

By the end of January 2011, the detectives connected four rapes over a 15-month period across the Denver suburbs. It started on October 4, 2009 with the 65-year-old woman in Aurora, 9 months later, 22 miles to the west, the 46-year old artist in Lakewood was attacked & jumped out her bedroom window, a month later the 59-year-old woman was raped in Westminster, 10 miles to the north & then in January of 2011, the 26-year-old was attacked in Golden, 15 miles southwest of Westminster. On a map, it was clear this rapist was circling the compass points of Denver’s suburbs. 

As police reviewed DNA it was clear this person was familiar with law enforcement & may even be a cop; no DNA was left behind. Each woman was forced to shower, he used wet wipes to clean his ejaculate & took their clothing & bedding with him when he left. However, he did leave three samples of seven or eight skin cells of touch DNA that could be analyzed. One was collected from a kitchen timer he set in Westminster, a second from the 26-year-old victim in Golden & another from a teddy bear in Aurora.

By February of 2011, the touch DNA narrowed the suspects to males belonging to the same paternal family line though couldn’t identify a single individual so the results couldn’t be entered into the FBI’s national DNA database to check for a match. As the meeting to discuss the evidence concluded, a young crime analyst from the Lakewood PD spoke & said that she had searched for any reports of suspicious people or vehicles within a quarter mile of the Lakewood victim’s home for the previous six months. Three weeks before the attempted rape in Lakewood, a woman had called to report a suspicious pickup truck parked on the street with a man sitting inside. When police arrived, the man was gone but a report was filed on the vehicle; it was a 1993 white Mazda, registered to a Lakewood man named Marc Patrick O’Leary.

Now it was time to see if this car could be matched to the blurry image seen on surveillance in Golden. Lakewood patrol cars had cameras that automatically took photos of every license plate they passed which generated a searchable database of thousands of tag numbers sorted by time & location. The license plate 935VHX was entered in the system & found that a patrol car had taken a picture of O’Leary standing by his white Mazda on his driveway, just two hours after the August attack in Westminster.

This was compared to the surveillance tape & both images noted a broken passenger side mirror, ball hitches at the back, identical smudges on the back of the truck; possibly from a torn bumper sticker. They knew they had their guy. DMV records showed he was 6’1” and 220#; he was 32-years old & had hazel eyes. This  matched the physical descriptions provided by the victims. The driver’s license photo was taken about four hours after the Westminster attack; he wore a white t-shirt in the photo & this is what the victim said he wore during his attack. 

Detectives found anything they could about O’Leary; he had no criminal record, he wasn’t a sex offender, he had served in the Army .Galbraith’s husband & fellow police officer, David found, when searching their computers, that O’Leary had purchased a porn website in September of 2008 & wondered if it could contain any photos of his victims. In the meantime, they needed to get his DNA. Officers watched as he & a woman left his house & headed to a nearby restaurant. When they finished eating & left, officers rushed in & took their drinking cups.

As agents followed Marc O’Leary, another FBI agent knocked on the door of his home with the intention of installing a surveillance camera nearby & wanted to be sure that no one was around. To his surprise, someone came to the door & they looked just like Marc O’Leary. The agent created a story, saying they were canvassing the area due to a burglary. The man introduced himself as Marc O’Leary & informed him that his brother, Michael, who he lived with, had just left to get lunch with his girlfriend. They had obtained DNA from Michael.

Analysts from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation compared the DNA from the crime scenes & Michael O’Leary’s; they matched. Now they needed to figure out which O’Leary was responsible. Galbraith got a search warrant for O’Leary’s house & on February 13, 2011 at 8:15am. Her goal was to see if Marc’s leg had a dark birthmark the size of an egg; it did.

The FBI moved in & O’Leary immediately invoked his right to an attorney. He was arrested & transferred to the Jefferson County Jail. Search of his closet found the Adidas ZX 700 shoes that matched two sets of footprints, the Under Armour gloves with the honeycomb pattern as well as the black scarf that was used as a facemask, the pink digital camera, wet wipes, lubrication, a collection of women’s underwear was also there. 

By March, a forensic computer specialist found a folder on O’Leary’s computer titled “girls.” The folder contained pictures of his victims; Galbraith noticed a girl that she didn’t recognize that was much younger than his known victims. She looked terrified, was bound & gagged on a bed. She noticed one image that had the girl’s learner’s permit on her chest with her name & address visible. It was Marie.

On December 9, 2011, O’Leary was sentenced to 327.5 years in prison after pleading guilty to 28 counts of rape & associated felonies in Colorado. In a police interview after his conviction, he recounted his attacks in detail. Describing how he felt after raping an elderly woman, he said, “It was like I had just eaten a Thanksgiving dinner.”

When talking about his attack on Marie, he said that he realized she wasn’t his type as he watched her through her bedroom window but had conditioned himself to incorporate as many women, old & young, into his fantasies. He told police that he has spent hundreds of hours, maybe even thousands “hunting” for his next victim. He surveyed the homes extensively before breaking in, to be sure the victim was alone. He often entered the homes through unlocked doors & windows though found that sliding glass doors were easy to get into even when locked. He was only 8-years-old the first time he broke into a home. Marc knew the layout of Marie’s apartment since he had broken in twice before. He found Marie’s shoes in the livingroom & removed the laces & placed the shoes neatly back, he took a knife from the knife block in the kitchen. He threaded one of the shoelaces through a pair of underwear & entered Marie’s bedroom. Just before he left, after the horrific rape, he told her he was sorry, that he felt stupid, that it had looked better in his head.

Knowing the Army had his DNA on record, he was very careful to not leave his DNA behind. Knowing that police departments from different jurisdictions rarely communicated, he moved around when planning his attacks. The five other attacks; one in Washington & four in Colorado, all came after the attack of Marie.

In June 2012 after pleading guilty to both Washington cases, O’Leary was sentenced to an additional 40 years for the rape in Kirkland & 28.5 years for the rape of Marie in Lynnwood. During his sentencing, he said, “I am a sexually violent predator & I’m out of control. I’ve been out of control for a long time. If someone did this to someone I know or love, I know exactly how I’d feel. I would want to kill him.” Marc O’Leary grew up in a normal home outside of Denver; he first felt a predatory instinct when he was 5-year-old & his parents took him to see Return of the Jedi; seeing Princess Leia chained up to Jabba the Hutt, wearing a metal bikini made gave him an overwhelming desire to dominate & enslave women. He was married to a Russian woman between 2004 & 2009. According to Marc, Marie was his first victim. At the time, he had been stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington from November 2006-September 2009 which is about an hour from Lynnwood.

After linking O’Leary to Marie’s rape, Lynnwood Police Chief Steven Jensen requested an outside review of how his department handled the investigation. A sex crimes supervisor with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department, Sgt Gregg Rinta isn’t surprised that Marie recanted her attack after the “bullying” & “hounding” that she was subjected to & that what happened was “nothing short of the victim being coerced into admitting that she lied about the rape.” When referencing the threats to time in jail & withdrawing her housing assistance, he called them cruel & unbelievably unprofessional. “I can’t imagine ANY justification for making these statements.” 

An internal review indicated that Mason’s judgment had been influenced by Peggy’s phone call. No one was disciplined within the Lynnwood PD for the poor handling of Marie’s case. To live through a vicious attack & rape & then be told you’re lying was considered a “major failing” within the department. Her case did lead to changes within the department; detectives are given additional training about rape victims & victims themselves get immediate assistance & support from advocates at a local healthcare center. Investigators need to find “definitive proof” of lying before a rape victim is doubted & when there is doubt, the case must be reviewed by someone higher up.

Rittgarn left the department before O’Leary’s arrest & declined an interview for the story published in ProPublica. In 2008, Marie’s case was one of four that had been labeled unfounded by the Lynnwood police according to FBI statistics. In the five years between 2008-2012, the department determined that 10 of 47 rapes or 21.3% were unfounded which is five times the national average of 4.3% for similar sized agencies. 

Two & a half years after Marie was labeled a liar, she was tracked down by the Lynnwood police on the south side of Seattle & told the news of her rapist being arrested in Colorado. They refunded her the $500 to cover her court fees, gave her information on counseling for rape victims & told her that her record would be expunged. Marie broke down in shock, relief & anger.

Shannon spoke with Marie after & apologized for doubting her & Marie forgave her immediately. Peggy also apologized. She regrets sharing her doubts with the police, believing if she had just kept her mouth shut, they would have done their job. Marie sued the city & settled for $150,000. Marie also received a settlement with  an at-risk-youth program called Cocoon House that oversaw where she was living at the time of her attack since she was threatened with eviction unless she received counseling & told others in the program that she lied about her rape. The settlement is confidential. She ended up moving, getting a job as a long-haul trucker, getting married & having two kids. Before moving, she went to the Lynnwood police station & confronted Mason. He looked remorseful & told her that he was deeply sorry. 


  1. ProPublica: An Unbelievable Story of Rape
  2. ati: Inside The Disturbing True Story Of Serial Rapist Marc O’Leary
  3. CBS Colorado: Who Is Marc O’Leary, Rapist Who Was Captured In Colorado And The Subject Of Netflix Series ‘Unbelievable’
  4. The Seattle Times: Lynnwood to pay rape victim $150,000 in false-claim suit
  5. heavy. Marie Adler from ‘Unbelievable’ in Real Life: Where Is She Today?

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