30: BASED ON A TRUE STORY (AGAIN) post thumbnail image

Marc O’Leary. This story is unbelievable. Poor police work and gaslighting a victim led to this man raping more women. They could have caught him after his first victim, but instead two detectives convinced a young girl to say she made the whole thing up. It’s so upsetting to think he could have been stopped.

I don’t have a lot of pictures from this episode. To protect the victims there are no pictures, and who cares to look at tons of pictures of this creep.


All That’s Interesting. “Inside the Disturbing True Story of Serial Rapist Marc O’Leary. By Neil Patmore. November 19, 2022.

Who is Marc O’Leary, Rapist Who Was Captured In Colorado and The Subject of Netflix Series Unbelievable? March 19, 2021.

Women’s Health. Who Is Marc O’Leary? The Real-Life Rapist from Netflix’s Unbelievable, Explained. By Korin Miller. September 13, 2019.

Propublica. “An Unbelievable story of Rape” by T. Christian Miller, of ProPublica and Ken Armstrong of The Marshall Project. December 16, 2015.

A&E. How Two Detectives Tracked Down a Serial Rapist – After Police Didn’t Believe His First Victim by Laura Dorwart. September 13, 2019.

Also “Marc O’Leary, serial rapist felt entitle to assault anyone he wanted, gets 327 years” by Michael Roberts, and “Rape Victim gets $150,000 after Police accuse her of Lying” by Jessica Testa. Even if the titles of these articles are not that great, they are all very good.


I couldn’t decide on what category to put this story in. First I thought Survivor, and it is a survivor story so I really wanted to go with that. But it’s also a story of poor police work and then outstanding police work, and I didn’t want that to overshadow the survivor story in the middle of this. I also thought about putting it in a “serial rapist category” but I hate that and I want to celebrate the many survivors and amazing detectives instead of the creep who thought he could do whatever he wanted. I ultimately decided to put it in my favorite category “Based on a True Story” because this story became an awesome series.

In the early morning hours of August 11, 2008, an 18-year-old girl living in a non-profit housing facility called Cocoon House in Lynnwood Washington is awakened by a man in her bedroom threatening her with a butcher’s knife he pulled from a drawer in the kitchen. The man had snuck into her apartment through an unlocked sliding door. He’d broken into her apartment two other times, but she didn’t know that. This also gave him some familiarity with her home, so he could move around with ease. He tied her wrists together with a shoestring taken from her sneakers. He then stuffed some of her underwear in her mouth as a gag and blindfolder her. He proceeded to take pictures of her, and taunted her with comments on the telephone conversation she’d had before going to bed. He’d been outside her door listening! And then raped he numerous times.

The girl who has protected her identity, she chose to be identified in the press as Marie, so that is what I’m going to call her. Marie had been in foster care and was transitioning out of the system when the attack occurred. She is a survivor of repeated abuse as a child. After the man left Marie calls her case manager and a neighbor for help. The neighbor makes the call to 911. Police see the marks on her wrists and photograph them for their report. At the hospital, the ligature marks on her wrists as well as other abrasions on her body from the assault are noted. She undergoes a full assault exam, commonly called a rape kit. The exam looks for hair and semen left by the attacker, as well as skin cells. Hospital staff also photograph any visible injuries to the body, like bruises, scratches, and ligature marks. The evidence is collected and sent for DNA testing and the information about the assault is loaded into CODIS.

The investigation into Marie’s attack begins as usual and Lynnwood Detectives Sgt. Jeffrey Mason and Jeffrey Rittgarn are assigned to the investigation. However, very quickly the detectives are suspicious of MARIE’s lack of emotions even when she describes the extreme violence, and they begin to doubt her story. They pick up on minor inconsistencies in her retelling of the story. And their feelings are confirmed when MARIE’s former foster mother comments that the story sounds like it came from an episode of Law and Order.  

Three days after this attack Detective Mason and Rittgarn asked MARIE to come to the police station for questioning. As this interrogation is happening Rittgarn writes in his report “Her answer and body language make it apparent MARIE is lying.” He also noted she became more animated, pounded on the table, and used the term “pretty positive” to describe that the rape happened. She says, “I’m pretty positive it happened.” Rittgarn also warns MARIE that her transition housing may be revoked if she were to fail a polygraph test. Rittgarn and Mason are convinced she is lying, and under the pressure the detectives are putting on her MARIE says, ‘maybe it was a dream.” Eventually she signs a statement saying she made the rape story up, and despite the reassurance from the detectives that nothing will happen to her if she signs the statement, she is charged with filing a false police report. She is then arrested and arraigned. On September 25, 2008, she pleads not guilty to the charges, but she is forced to an agreement to pay a fine of $500, a sentence of one year of probation, and she must undergo a mental health evaluation.

Ok. So, lets jump forward to January 2011, a woman in Golden Colorado is woken by a man wearing a mask and holding a gun in front of her. He tells her if she screams, he will shoot her. Fearing he will kill her she cooperates with him. Over the next four hours she forces her to dress in thigh high stockings and pink high heel shoes. In a backpack he brought with him he also has lubricant, wet wipes, bottled water, and a pink Sony camera. He forces her to put on makeup and wear her hair in pig tails. He takes pictures over her during this time and sexually assaults her many times. After the attack is over, he forces the woman to take a shower. He tells her to run the water over her body for 5 minutes and wash all over herself with soap. When she comes out of the shower he is gone, and he has taken his backpack, and her sheets, pajamas, and panties. She tells police he did not remove his mask the entire time, however she did see a large egg-shaped birthmark on his right leg and describes his shaved pubic area.

Stacy Galbraith, a Detective with the Golden, Colorado police department is having dinner with her husband who is an officer with the nearby Westminster Police department. Over dinner she starts describing the MO of a perpetrator who raped the woman in the Golden area. Her husband says it sounds like the details of a case he recently looked at from the Westminster area. The victims shared remarkably similar details: the attacker forced them to wear pink high heels, took pictures, and made them shower after he assaulted them. As they continue discussing these cases they realize it is the same perpetrator. The egg-shaped birthmark, pink high heels and the forced showers make this pretty clear.

Detective Galbraith joins up with a detective from the Westminster police department named Edna Hendershot, together these two create a task force with members of the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and the FBI and other suburbs of the Denver area. In the beginning days of the task force finding evidence was difficult. The attacker was methodical in his approach and took great measures to hide or remove his DNA from the scene. He also carefully selected victims after doing surveillance for several weeks. The attacker also moved from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to avoid the serial details from being detected.

Eventually, the task force found a 65-year-old woman in Aurora, a 26-year-old student in Golden, a 59-year-old woman in Westminster, and a 46-year-old woman in Lakewood, all reported similar details of the attack and physical description of their attacker.  

This man was so good at not leaving evidence. In July 2010 a 46-year-old artist was confronted by a man wearing a black mask and holding a knife. He tried to tie up her wrists, but when he turned away from her, she jumped out of her bedroom window. The 7-foot fall to the ground broke her ribs and punctured her lungs, but she escaped his attack. Galbraith and Hendershot worked at the crime scene in Westminster and eventually a shoeprint was found in the damp soil outside the woman’s window., which Galbraith compared to footprints found at the Lakewood crime scene where the woman had jumped from the window. The two prints were a match. An investigative company called identified the print as coming from a pair of Adidas ZX 700 mesh shoes. (Crimeshoe sounds like a very helpful organization, but unfortunately the website is no longer active, the FBI does have a database for shoe print identification.)

They also found a honeycomb pattern on the window in the victim’s apartment which matched marks found at the Westminster crime scene. The brand of gloves was identified when one of the taskforce members searched a local Dick’s Sporting Goods on a hunch.

By the end of January, the task force had connected four rapes during a 15-month period across Denver suburbs. Their timeline begins with the first rape in October 2009. On a map the attacks looked like the perpetrator was circling compass points crisscrossing through the suburbs.

The rapist was meticulous and obviously familiar with the ways law enforcement collected DNA. There was fear that it possibly was a cop. He carefully avoided leaving his DNA behind, by wearing gloves, using wet wipes to clean anything he touched, ordering the women to shower afterward, even taking bedding and clothing with him. He was extremely thorough, but not perfect. Technicians recovered samples of touch DNA, as few as 8 cells in some locations. The first sample came from a kitchen timer at the Westminster crime scene. The second came from the victim in Golden, and a third sample was found on a teddy bear at the Aurora site. The touch DNA, and low copy DNA was a great start, but not enough to identify the suspect, and not enough to use in the FBI DNA database. It did help to connect the crimes. After 5 weeks of investigation the task force was feeling discouraged. They did not have enough yet.  

Another investigator followed her gut and pulled reports of suspicious vehicles and prowlers for the previous six months, within a quarter mile of the Lakewood victim’s home. She was not sure if this would turn out to be anything, but they were grasping at straws. She found one report that stood out. Three weeks before the attempted rape a woman reported a man sitting in a white pickup truck. The officer that checked it out found the man was gone, but he filed a report on the vehicle. This report caught her eye because the truck was parked a half a block from the victim’s home, by an empty lot that was adjacent to her backyard. The report identified the truck as a white 1993 Mazda belonging to a Lakewood resident named Marc Patrick O’Leary.

This ignited the task force. Detectives pulled all the surveillance video around the crime scenes looking for images of the white pickup. Lakewood police had a searchable database of license plates taken by patrol cars. (they have cameras that automatically take a picture of every license plate). They found a photo of O’Leary standing by his truck in the driveway of his home two hours after the August attack in Westminster. Then they found a picture that showed O’Leary’s truck had a broken passenger side mirror and a smudge where a bumper sticker had been torn off. BINGO! They had it. They could confirm the suspicious truck sitting outside the Lakewood crime scene was the same one O’Leary was driving. Another photo in the database showed O’Leary heading to the Colorado DMV where he renewed his driver’s license FOUR hours after the attack in Westminster. In it the 32-year-old man wore a white t-shirt, which the victim had told police her attacker wore a white T-shirt during the assault. (He didn’t even change his clothes!!) a white T-shirt is hardly a smoking gun, it’s circumstantial at best. O’Leary’s physical description also matched victim descriptions.

Hendershot and Galbraith were motivated by the direction the investigation was heading, but they wanted to move forward cautiously. Over the following 24 hours the task force threw everything they had into finding out everything they possibly could about O’Leary. Galbraith and her husband David used their laptops each USING different search engines looking FOR any reference to O’Leary they could find. David found O’Leary had purchased a pornography website in September 2008. They speculated they may find the photos of his victims on the site.

Investigators ALSO began surveilling O’Leary to get DNA that could be tested against the samples found at the crime scenes. The samples they had could not definitely say it was Marc Patrick O’Leary, but it could show a match to any male relative. On February 11, 2011, FBI agents watching O’Leary’s home followed him and a woman from his house to a nearby restaurant, when the couple finished eating the agents rushed in and bagged the drinking cups from their table.

While the agents were watching the couple at the restaurant another agent went to try and install a surveillance camera. He was surprised when a man answered the door he knocked on. (he knocked to make sure no one was home). The agent using some quick thinking and a practiced response told the man he was canvassing the neighborhood to warn of a burglar in the neighborhood. The man told the agent he was Marc O’Leary. The agents at the restaurant were following Marc’s brother Michael.

Investigators did not know the brothers lived together. It threw them for a loop. They decided to run the DNA anyway. Technicians worked through the night and by 2PM Saturday they had a match. Either O’Leary man could have committed the rapes. Galbraith put together a search warrant which was signed by a judge at 10PM on Saturday.

At 8:15 the next morning, Galbraith backed up by seven cops pounded on the front door of the O’Leary home. Marc O’Leary opened the door confused. Galbraith showed him the search warrant as the cops rushed in. She pulled Marc into another room and patted him down. When she got to his legs, she raised his right pant leg and saw that dark egg-shaped birthmark with her own eyes. As soon as she confirmed she had the right man she gave the thumbs up the FBI agent waiting in the doorway. O’Leary immediately invoked his right to an attorney, but it did not matter. They found what they needed. Galbraith cuffed him herself and placed him under arrest. He was taken to the Jefferson Country Jail. Galbraith said she wanted to be the one to arrest him. She wanted him to know they had figured him out.

The search of the home gave them everything they needed. Investigators found the Adidas shoes, The Under Armour gloves with the honeycomb pattern, and a black headwrap he used as a mask. His military organization helped them find everything they were looking for. They found the pink Sony camera in a closet, a large backpack packed with wet wipes, AND lubrication. And hidden inside a piece of stereo equipment, his trophies, the women’s’ underwear. Police also seized O’Leary’s computer. It took a forensic computer specialist a few weeks to crack, but when they did, they found a folder titled “girls” with pictures of the victims. Each of them was recognizable as the victims from AROUND DENVER

And then there was a picture of someone the task force did not recognize. A young girl, much younger than the other victims. She was bound and gagged and looked terrified. Galbraith was trying to figure out how to identify the girl who looked like a teenager. And then inexplicably, there was another picture of the girl this time with her learners permit laying on her chest. It had her name and address on it.

Lynnwood Washington.

Marc O’Leary was born in Colorado in 1978. He says he knows the exact moment he turned into a sexual predator. In an interview to Propublica he says when he was 5 years old his parents took the family to see The Return of the Jedi movie, and seeing Princess Leia in a metal bikini chained to Jabba the Hutt caused a desire to dominate and enslave women. At 5? I’m mean seriously, at 5, you decided you wanted to be a sexual predator? He says he knew this was not normal, so he kept his thoughts to himself. Early on he indulged in his fantasies by breaking into homes and watching girls and women, like a voyeur. After he graduated from high school he joined the army. It’s during his service that he learns many of the tactics and techniques he would use on his victims. In 2004 O’Leary married a Russian woman he’d met near the base he was stationed. He hid his sadistic tendencies from his wife.

O’Leary returned the states and was based in Washington, during this time is when he rapes Marie, and the 63-year-old woman in Kirkland, Washington. In 2009 O’Leary and his wife move back to Colorado, but he has a hard time keeping up with married life and still finds time to do the surveillance he needs to do to continue his deviant ways. So, he gets divorced. I can’t imagine how hard it is for a person to realize what a monster they were married to. He was also dating a woman at the time of his arrest. Her name is out there, but I don’t think it’s important to give it.  She told 48 Hours she threw up when she heard the news. She also reported they did not have a great sex life, because he needed the other person to fear him.

During his arrest interrogation O’Leary told officers he was part of secret society that looked at people as alphas and bravos, this was sort of backed up by a friend of his who repeated this alpha bravo sentiment. O’Leary told officers, he was an alpha and could have sex with anyone he wanted. Gross.

At his sentencing hearing he describe himself as “a sexually violent predator and I am out of control.” He also stated that if the Lynnwood police had conducted a more thorough investigation, he could have been stopped. He knew he made mistakes with Marie, that he corrected with the subsequent rapes. He realized the Army had his DNA on file and after the rape of Marie he took vigilant steps to remove his DNA from the crime scenes. On December 9, 2011 O’Leary pleaded guilty to 28 counts of rape and felonies associated. He was sentenced to 327.5 years. He is living in the Sterling Correctional facility in Colorado. He will never be released from this prison.

Galbraith worked with a criminal analyst to connect O’Leary to the rape in Lynnwood Washington, but also one in Kirkland, Washington. O’Leary pleaded guilty to both cases in June 2012 and was sentenced to 40 years for the rape in Kirkland and 28.5 years for the Lynnwood rape.

Once O’Leary was connected to the rape of MARIE the police chief in Lynnwood ordered an outside review of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s department. The investigation found the victim had been “coerced into confessing she lied” and police ignored strong evidence of the crime, instead focusing on minor inconsistencies in her account. [which I just want to point out that not having inconsistencies in your story is also a sign of lying…it sounds rehearsed anyone?] The reviewer also stated MARIE was hounded and bullied by the detectives and further denounced the detectives’ actions as coercive and cruel with no justification for making statements threatening to remove her from her housing or even give jailtime.

Between 2008 and 2012 the Lynnwood police department labeled 21% of the rape cases as “unfounded.” This is FIVE TIMES the national average, based on similarly sized municipalities.

However, despite the review’s harsh language no on in Lynnwood was disciplined. MARIE’s case is looked at as a “major failing” within the department and members of the police force have a profound sense of regret. She was victimized a second time when the detectives refused to believe her report and then told her she lied. The department has made major changes to the handling of sexual assault investigations, including a mandate of “definitive proof” of lying before doubting a rape charge or a charge of false reporting.

Two and half years after she was forced to vacate her rape report officers from Lynnwood police located her living in Seattle. They informed her that her rapist had been arrested in Colorado. She was given information for victims counseling. They told her they would expunge her record and they gave her a check for $500 (a refund of her court costs. MARIE broke down after this. MARIE sued the city and settled for $150,000.

She got her commercial driver’s license and worked as a long-haul trucker. She got married and in October 2015 she and her husband welcomed their second child.

In 2019 Netflix released the mini-series Unbelievable which is based on MARIE’s story.

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