Spoiler alert and trigger warning: The following story contains details about Netflix’s new limited series, Unbelievable, as well as information about sexual assault cases..
Over the weekend, the latest compelling true-crime-turned-tv-series dropped. And if you binge-watched it in a day like the rest of us, you’re probably now interested in an update on the real-life Marie Adler from Netflix’s Unbelievable — along with information about where the other people who inspired the series are today. Based on true events, the story is devastating and at times literally feels hard to fathom, so it’s only natural to be curious about the characters’ real-life counterparts.
The miniseries picks up a harrowing tale first brought to light in the Pulitzer-winning ProPublica article, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” In this actual (as hard as it is to imagine) chain of events, a young woman named Marie was charged with falsely reporting a sexual assault after going to the police about her rape in 2008. She doesn’t see any sort of justice until two female detectives from another state connect a series of rapes to a single perpetrator. And, more than two years after Marie’s assault, they discover he was also Marie’s attacker.
Netflix’s retelling doesn’t include additional backstory on the real people behind the case, so here’s a brief look at who they are and what we know about them today. Out of sensitivity for the people involved, the following photos show their onscreen Unbelievable characters.
Played by Kaitlyn Dever in the series, the central character goes by Marie Adler. However, we know from the original reporting in the ProPublica piece that Marie was the middle name of the woman at the center of this story (we don’t know her real last name). As we see at Unbelievable‘s conclusion, Marie’s record is expunged, she receives a settlement from the city for $150,000, and she leaves the state.
All of that is true to real life. She has since gone on to get married and have two children. She got a commercial driver’s license and took a job as a long-haul trucker. According to the Seattle Times, Marie additionally received an undisclosed settlement with the at-risk-youth program who oversaw where she was living at the time of her assault. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she has seen the trailer for Unbelievable, calling it both “phenomenal” and “hard to watch.”
Detectives Karen Duvall & Grace Rasmussen
The truth about Marie’s assault may never have come out (technically, again) had it not been for the work of two female detectives in Colorado. Although from different precincts, they came together after noticing similarities in their cases. In the series, these women are named Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall and are played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, respectively.
In real life, Rasmussen’s name is Edna Hendershot — a Colorado detective who had worked on more than 100 rape cases in her career prior to coming across this case. She went on to be promoted to sergeant in the Westminster Police Department, according to 48 Hours, and is also currently listed as part of the Adamas, Broomfield and Aurora region’s Crisis Intervention Teams Association of Colorado.
Unbelievable‘s Detective Karen Duvall is named Stacy Galbraith in real life and, just like Hendershot, she’s just as badass offscreen as her onscreen persona suggests. She was instrumental in tracking down and catching the serial rapist responsible for the assault of Marie (and many other women). Today, per 48 Hours, she is an agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. In 2011, she received the “Officer of the Year” award from the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. She still advocates passionately for rape survivors.
Both Hendershot and Gilbraith remain in touch with Marie and the other women who were a part of the case.
Detectives Parker & Pruitt
As for the detectives who bullied and coerced Marie into recanting her statement after going to them about her rape, they received what you might call a slap on the wrist. Despite an external review of the investigation revealing that their behavior was “coercive, cruel, and unbelievably professional” (per the ProPublica piece), no one in the Lynwood Police Department was formally disciplined.
Writer’s Note: Marie’s rapist, Marc O’Leary — billed as Chris McCarthy in the series — is still in prison on 27 counts of rape in Colorado and two in Washington. According to the original reporting, he was sentenced in total to 396 years in prison and given a parole date he will never see of March 8, 2284.