Who's The Teenager Who Inspired The Character Marie In 'Unbelievable'?

Kaitlyn Dever stars as the victim of a serial rapist in Netflix's new series "Unbelievable."

By Gina Tron
Digital Original
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A new Netflix series, which takes on the real-life tale of how a serial rapist was tracked down and captured, dedicates a lot of its screen time to one of his victims in particular: a teenage girl who wasn’t believed when she came forward with her story — to the extent investigators actually charged her with filing a false report.

The eight-episode series, entitled "Unbelievable," is an adaptation of the 2015 Pulitzer-winning ProPublica and Marshall Project in-depth story about the case. Kaitlyn Dever plays Marie, a young woman with a tough life who experiences a horrific ordeal: The first episode depicts Marie's rape, an attack by a knife-wielding man wearing a mask, in flashbacks. And to top it all off, police refuse to believe her when she comes forward.

It's a tragic story, made even more difficult to watch knowing it's based on a true story. So who was the real-life Marie?

The actual Marie’s first name is not Marie — that's her middle name, which was used in the article about her case. She doesn’t want her first name revealed.

Unbelievable Netflix

The journalists behind that piece obtained a report written by mental health expert who interviewed Marie for hours, which states that she only met her biological father once and that she knows very little about her biological mother.

That mother “would often leave her in the care of boyfriends.” The report also added that Marie “was sexually and physically abused."

Marie said on an episode of “This American Life” in an episode devoted to this case entitled “Anatomy of Doubt” that she was raped as a child, but noted she didn’t talk about it much and pretty much suppressed that it had happened.

She moved around a lot as a kid, and had to switch foster homes about 11 times, not including the group homes she bounced around in. Sometimes she got to be with her siblings, but most often not, according to the ProPublica report. 

Marie was heavily medicated, although it’s not clear why.

“I was on like seven different drugs. And Zoloft is an adult drug — I was on that at 8,” she said, according to the article.

Despite that, she tried to enjoy life and liked school, hiking, photography, and going to the beach with friends.

She went to an alternative high school where she met her boyfriend, Jordan Schweitzer, who later told the journalists behind the piece that “she was just a nice person to have around. She was always nice to talk to.”

Marie got her GED at age 17 in 2008. Wanting independence, she moved into a program in Lynnwood, Washington entitled Project Ladder designed to help young people transition from foster care to living by themselves.

“It was just nice to be on my own and not have all the rules that I had had being in foster care,” Marie said, according to ProPublica. “It was just like, freedom. It was awesome.”

She worked at Costco and stayed in touch with some of her previous foster moms. But then her life changed.

Marie turned 18 just three months before the rape.

“I didn’t want this time to be like that,” Marie said of her attack on “This American Life,” comparing it to her first rape. "I wanted to talk about it and get it out.”

The first person she called after the attack was her former foster mom Shannon McQuery, who immediately didn’t believe her.

“There was something about how she said it just made me question whether or not she’d actually been raped,” Shannon said on “Anatomy of Doubt.”  

She cited Marie's lack of tears, claiming she didn’t think that Marie was emotional enough and she found it suspicious that Marie told several people about what had happened. She also held it against Marie that apparently she wasn't making eye contact, was giggling, and was being flirty in the aftermath. She said she found it strange that Marie wanted the same bedspread set that she had before the rape.

Another former foster mom, Peggy Cunningham, thought that maybe Marie got sexual with someone and they took pictures (Marie said her rapist took photos of her) and this rape story was a way to cover that up, according to “This American Life.”

"I just got this really weird feeling. I felt like she was telling me the script of a ‘Law and Order’ story. She was detached, emotionally detached from what she was saying,” Cunningham said on the show, adding she thought she was simply seeking attention.

She even called the lead detective on the case the day after and questioned Marie’s validity.

“For me it seems like people read me differently than I see myself,” Marie said in the written piece about her struggle.

She was charged with filing a false report, later forced to pay $500, and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote a piece about her called, “Police: Lynnwood rape report was a hoax.”

“I was mad at God,” Marie said. “I went into this dark hole.”

But years later, she was vindicated.  Two and a half years after Marie’s attack, Lynnwood police contacted her to refund her the $500 and other court costs and informed her that her record would be expunged.

In 2011, her rapist Marc O’Leary pleaded guilty to raping three women, including Marie, and trying to rape a fourth in Colorado. Denver-area publication Westword reported. He was sentenced to 327 and a half years in prison.  Then, in 2012, he was given another 62 years after pleading guilty to two rapes in the Washington towns of Lynnwood and Kirkland, KOMO News in Seattle reported.

Marie's foster parents and police in Lynnwood have since apologized to her. She has left the state, although she wants her new location to remain secret.

She is now a truck driver, married, and as of 2015 has two children. Despite all she had been through, Marie said she does not regret reporting the rape.

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