In 2008, an 18-year-old Washington woman walked into the Lynwood Police Department to report she had been raped. When she walked out hours later, detectives had convinced her she'd invented the story, and coerced her into writing a statement apologizing for wasting their time.
A few days later, Lynwood detectives charged the victim -- identified only by her middle name, Marie -- with filing a false report, according to an investigation by the non-profit ProPublica.
Marie, a foster child who had been abused, neglected and bounced around between group homes and foster homes for more than a decade, didn't have a lawyer and ended up taking a plea deal, admitting she made up the rape, and consenting to a years' worth of mental health counseling for lying.
Despite the fact that police had photographic evidence showing Marie's wrists had been bound -- and doctors at a local hospital confirmed genital trauma consistent with rape -- Marie was branded a liar, ostracized from the few friends she had, and told she invented the rape for attention.
Three years later, in February 2011, Lynwood cops tracked Marie down, handed her an envelope with the $500 in court fees she'd paid, and told her the rapist had been caught: Marc O'Leary, a serial rapist who evaded detectives from other agencies over the span of a years-long investigation, was arrested in Colorado and charged with 39 counts of sexual assault. Among O'Leary's possessions was an ID card he'd stolen from Marie, and a pink camera with photographs of himself raping Marie, among hundreds of photos of his other sexual assaults.
By 2014, Marie's fortunes were completely reversed; she was living happily in Wyoming and engaged to be married -- and she won a $150,000 settlement from Lynwood for the ordeal that the city's police department had put her through, KIRO TV reported.
Marie's harrowing ordeal was reported in excruciating detail after a joint investigation by ProPublica and The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal justice system.
O'Leary, who was meticulous in his methods and went by a particular MO when raping his victims, was sentenced to 327 years in prison after he was finally convicted. Cops said O'Leary stalked his victims for months before raping them, according to the Denver Post, and he was only caught after a cooperative effort involving three police departments and more than 100 detectives and officers on the case.
Lynwood police told ProPublica they've instituted new training methods and changed the way they investigate rape cases. But the two detectives who initially didn't believe Marie -- and coerced her into saying she invented the story -- were never disciplined, ProPublica reported. One detective resigned and is now privately employed, while the other remains with the department.