Washington and Colorado serial rape cases
Between 2008 and 2011, a series of rapes in the suburbs around Seattle and Denver were perpetrated by Marc Patrick O'Leary, an army veteran who had previously been stationed near Tacoma, Washington. Police did not believe the first victim, an 18-year-old woman known by her middle name, Marie, who reported being raped at her home in Lynnwood, Washington. Detectives' "bullying" and "hounding" of her, according to a later report, led Marie to recant her statement and be charged with making a false report of rape. O'Leary went on to rape five more women in a similar manner, one in Washington and four in Colorado.
Between 2008 and 2012, Lynnwood police labeled 21 percent of rape cases as "unfounded", five times the national average for similarly sized municipalities. An outside review of Marie's case by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office found that she had been "coerced into admitting that she lied", and that the police had ignored strong evidence of the crime to focus on "minor inconsistencies" in her account. As a result, Lynnwood police have since adopted new training methods for sexual assault investigations, and must have "definitive proof" of lying before questioning a rape report. Despite the critical review, no Lynnwood police officers were professionally disciplined.
O'Leary was arrested in Lakewood, Colorado in February 2011, following 40 days of investigation by a team of detectives collaborating across several departments. The investigators used similarities in the attacker's methods, along with photos found on O'Leary's computer, to link O'Leary to the five rapes in both states. He pleaded guilty to multiple counts of rape and was sentenced to the maximum 327½ years in prison in Colorado and a total of 68½ years in Washington.
T. Christian Miller of ProPublica and Ken Armstrong of The Marshall Project were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for their "examination and exposé of law enforcement's enduring failures" in the rape investigations. Their work, titled "An Unbelievable Story of Rape", was used as the basis for an episode of This American Life, narrated in part by Armstrong, and the Netflix series Unbelievable.
- Miller, T. Christian; Armstrong, Ken (December 16, 2015). "An Unbelievable Story of Rape". ProPublica, The Marshall Project. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
- Burnett, Sara (September 14, 2011). "Rape suspect in custody in Colorado linked to case in Washington state". The Denver Post. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
O'Leary was assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash., from November 2006 to September 2009, according to military records.
- Smith, Merril D., ed. (2018). "Stranger Rape". Encyclopedia of Rape and Sexual Violence, Volume 2. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 440. ISBN 978-1-4408-4489-8.
- Bryan, Zachariah (September 27, 2019). "Lynnwood police chief reflects on 'Unbelievable' rape case". The Everett Herald. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
- Roberts, Michael (February 15, 2011). "Marc O'Leary, accused serial rapist, held on $5 million bond as cops search for more victims". Westword. Denver. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
- Rodriguez, Carrie (June 11, 2012). "Serial rapist serving life sentence gets 40 more years for raping Kirkland woman". Kirkland Reporter. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
- Bazelon, Emily (March 6, 2018). "The Lesson Here Is Listen to the Victim". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
- "The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Explanatory Reporting". The Pulitzer Prizes, Columbia University. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
- "Anatomy of Doubt". This American Life. February 26, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
- Butler, Bethonie (September 17, 2019). "The true story behind 'Unbelievable,' Netflix's gripping new drama about the women who solved a serial rape case". The Washington Post – via ProQuest.
- Armstrong, Ken; Miller, T. Christian (September 5, 2019). "Netflix Series Based on Our Work Explores Costs of Not Believing Rape Victims". ProPublica. Retrieved September 14, 2019.