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The analyst shot Hendershot a message, “You need to come to talk to me right now.” The report detailed how a 46-year-old artist had been accosted in her home by a man with a knife. She broke three ribs and punctured a lung in the 7-foot fall to the ground, but managed to escape. They also appeared similar to prints from a pair of Under Armour gloves that a Lakewood investigator, on a hunch, had discovered at a Dick’s Sporting Goods.
But in fresh light, it appeared very much like a failed rape attempt, committed by an attacker who closely resembled the description of the rapist. But when the man looked away, the woman jumped out of her bedroom window.
Marie — that’s her middle name, Marie — didn’t say anything. She had reported being raped in her apartment by a man who had bound and gagged her. The prosecution’s offer was this: If she met certain conditions for the next year, the charge would be dropped. on a wintry day in January 2011, Detective Stacy Galbraith approached a long, anonymous row of apartment buildings that spilled up a low hill in a Denver suburb. At around 8 a.m., she was jolted awake by a man who had jumped on her back, pinning her to the bed. A half-dozen officers and technicians were now at work. The credibility of the victim was often on trial as much as the guilt of the accused.
Then, confronted by police with inconsistencies in her story, she had conceded it might have been a dream. One TV newscast announced, “A Western Washington woman has confessed that she cried wolf when it came to her rape she reported earlier this week.” She had been charged with filing a false report, which is why she was here today, to accept or turn down a plea deal. Her story hadn’t hurt anyone — no suspects arrested, or even questioned. She would need to get mental health counseling for her lying. She would need to keep straight, breaking no more laws. He wore a black mask that seemed more like a scarf fastened tight around his face. They were knocking on neighbors’ doors, snapping photographs in the apartment, digging through garbage bins, swabbing the walls, the windows, everywhere for DNA. And on the long, fraught trail between crime and conviction, the first triers of fact were the cops.
No one came to court with her that day, except her public defender. Galbraith suggested that she and the victim escape the icy gusts in a nearby unmarked patrol car. Most had been assaulted by a boyfriend, an old flame, or someone they had met at a club. Juries were hesitant to throw someone in prison when it was one person’s word against another’s.
She was 18 years old, charged with a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Her case was one of 4,859 filed in 2008 in Lynnwood Municipal Court, a place where the judge says the goal is “to correct behavior — to make Lynnwood a better, safer, healthier place to live, work, shop and visit.” But her misdemeanor had made the news, and made her an object of curiosity or, worse, scorn. The woman told Galbraith she was 26 years old, an engineering student on winter break from a nearby college. 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. He documented the assault with a digital camera and threatened to post the pictures online if she contacted the police. She clearly remembered one physical detail about him: a dark mark on his left calf the size of an egg. Those investigations often boiled down to an issue of consent. Rapes by strangers were uncommon — about 13 percent of cases.And she would have to pay 0 to cover the court’s costs. In the snow, they found a trail of footprints leading to and from the back of the apartment through an empty field. An investigating officer had to figure out if the victim was telling the truth. “A lot of times people say, ‘Believe your victim, believe your victim,’” Galbraith said.They spraypainted the prints fluorescent orange to make them stand out, then took pictures. “But I don’t think that that’s the right standpoint. 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.But efforts to identify the vehicle’s owner failed. Hendershot asked one of her department’s crime analysts to scour nearby agencies for similar crimes.