ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Rarely do misdemeanors draw notice. But her misdemeanor had made the news, and made her an object of curiosity or, worse, scorn. It had cost her the newfound independence she was savoring after a life in foster homes. It had cost her sense of worth. Each ring of the phone seemed to announce another friendship, lost. A friend from 10th grade called to ask: How could you lie about something like that?
She just listened, then hung up. Even her foster parents now doubted her. She doubted herself, wondering if there was something in her that needed to be fixed. She had reported being raped in her apartment by a man who had bound and gagged her. Then, confronted by police with inconsistencies in her story, she had conceded it might have been a dream. Then she admitted making the story up. Her lawyer was surprised she had been charged. His guess was, the police felt used. She would need to get mental health counseling for her lying.
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She would need to go on supervised probation. She would need to keep straight, breaking no more laws. A little after 1 p. Snow covered the ground in patches. It was blustery, and biting cold. She was there to investigate a report of rape. Galbraith spotted the victim standing in the thin sunlight outside her ground floor apartment. She was young, dressed in a brown, full-length coat. She clutched a bag of her belongings in one hand.
An unbelievable story of rape
She looked calm, unflustered. Galbraith introduced herself. Police technicians were swarming the apartment. Galbraith suggested that she and the victim escape the icy gusts in a nearby unmarked patrol car. The woman told Galbraith she was 26 years old, an engineering student on winter break from a nearby college.
She had been alone in her apartment the evening. At around 8 a.
He wore a black mask that seemed more like a scarf fastened tight around his face. He gripped a silver and black gun. He moved deliberately. He tied her hands loosely behind her. From a large black bag, he took out thigh-high stockings, clear plastic high heels with pink ribbons, lubrication, a box of moist towelettes and bottled water. Over the next four hours, he raped her repeatedly. He documented the assault with a digital camera and threatened to post the pictures online if she contacted the police.
Afterward, he ordered her to brush her teeth and wash herself in the shower. By the time she exited the bathroom, he had gone. He had taken her sheets and bedding. She clearly remembered one physical detail about him: a dark mark on his left calf the size of an egg.
Galbraith listened to the woman with a sense of alarm. The attack was so heinous; the attacker so practiced. There was no time to waste. Then she drove her to St. Anthony North Hospital. The woman underwent a special forensic examination to collect more DNA evidence.
Galbraith returned to the crime scene. A half-dozen officers and technicians were now at work.
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In the snow, they found a trail of footprints leading to and from the back of the apartment through an empty field. They spraypainted the prints fluorescent orange to make them stand out, then took pictures. It was not much. But something.
One officer suggested a bathroom break. She was a wife, a mother. She was good at empathizing with the victims, who were overwhelmingly women.
An year-old said she was attacked at knifepoint. then she said she made it up. that’s where our story begins.
Most had been assaulted by a boyfriend, an old flame, or someone they had met at a club. Those investigations often boiled down to an issue of consent. They were tough for cops and prosecutors. Rapes by strangers were uncommon — about 13 percent of cases. Was she telling the truth?
Or fabricating a ruse to cover a sexual encounter gone wrong? In that way, rape cases were unlike most other crimes. The credibility of the victim was often on trial as much as the guilt of the accused. And on the long, fraught trail between crime and conviction, the first triers of fact were the cops.
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An investigating officer had to figure out if the victim was telling the truth. Galbraith had a simple rule: listen and verify. And then corroborate or refute based on how things go. At home, her husband David had done the dishes and put the kids to bed. They sank down on separate couches in their living room. The attacker had been cunning, attempting to erase any traces of DNA from the scene.
Before he left, he showed the student how he broke in through a sliding glass door. He suggested she put a dowel into the bottom track to keep out future intruders. David Galbraith was used to such bleak stories. They were both cops, after all.
He worked in Westminster, some 15 miles to the northeast. This time, though, there was something different.
As David listened, he realized that the details of the case were unsettlingly familiar. He told his wife to call his department first thing in the morning. She reports not knowing much about her biological mother, who she said would often leave her in the care of boyfriends. About two of those and probably 10 or 11 foster homes. Sometimes she was placed in foster homes with her siblings.
More often they were separated. After Marie became a teenager, her years of upheaval appeared at an end. Her foster family was going to adopt her. The first day of the first year of high school fills many students with anxiety.