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Trisha Meili kept her identity secret for fourteen years until a year after the five boys infamously known as the "Central Park 5" were exonerated of raping her.
Meili was a 28-year-old investment banker when she went for a jog in Central Park on April 19, 1989.
She was attacked by a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, but that wouldn’t be proven until years later.
Meili was wearing headphones when she was attacked, according to "The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One Of New York City's Most Infamous Crimes,” a book written in 2011 by Sarah Burns. So, she likely couldn’t hear her attacker approaching her and hitting her in the back of the head with a tree branch causing her to fall forward.
"Bleeding from the head, she was then dragged off the road to the north, through a grassy area, and then into the woods that began forty feet from the road,” the book states.
She was raped and badly beaten with a rock. Then, she was tied up with her own shirt and left to die.
Two passerbys found her and she had lost 80 percent of her blood. Meili was severely hurt, having had suffered several skull fractures and some deep lacerations. After about a week in a coma she woke up with no memory of what happened to her.
Although she was raped by a serial rapist, investigators chose to focus on a large group of Africian American boys who just happened to be in the park around the same time of the rape. People had made 911 calls to police that night regarding groups of teens harassing people in the park.
As the new Netflix series "When They See Us" which depicts the case shows, investigators honed in on five boys in particular: Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Kharey Wise. They all maintained their innocence and said they were coerced into confessing. The DNA found at the scene did not match any of theirs. Meili testified twice during the trial, under the identity "the Central Park Jogger,” and stated she didn’t remember the attack.
The boys, who came to be known as the “Central Park 5,” were sentenced to between seven and 13 years in prison for the attack. Their case became highly publicized and sensationalized, so much so that even Donald Trump weighed in on it. The five were exonerated in 2002. District Attorney Robert Morgenthau withdrew all charges against the boys, men at this time, and their convictions were vacated. Wise, who was still in prison, was released. The exonerations came after the real rapist came forward and admitted to the crime. Matias Reyes, known as the "East Side Rapist,” admitting to being behind the rape. Investigators matched his DNA to the DNA at the crime scene, according to ABC News. He made the confession while serving a 33 to life sentence for raping three women near Central Park, in addition to raping and killing a pregnant woman.
A year after the exonerations, Meili revealed her identity to the public and published the memoir "I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility" under her own name.
"I thought this would be a good time to say, 'Hey, look. It’s been 20 years, and life doesn’t end after brain injury, after sexual assault or whatever our challenges are,' Meili told the New York Times at the time.
Where is Meili now, and how is she doing, now that thirty years has passed since the horrific rape she experienced in the park?
Physically, she still bears some shadows of the attack. She still has some scarring on her face from the violent incident. She lost her sense of smell and struggles with both her sense of balance and vision, according to Refinery 29.
However, she has proven her strength both emotionally and physically. She never stopped running, joined a team for runners with disabilities just months after the attack, and even ran the New York Marathon back in 1995, the same year she got married. The New York Times did a profile on her dedication to running in 2009.
In an interview with VLADTV Santana and Salaam said the group of five have not had any conversations with her, as of 2017. Santana said he wouldn’t want to push that because of what they had gone through but said the door is open if she ever wanted to engage with them. He also expressed regret that such a conversation hasn't happened yet.
“This is a travesty of what happened to her but she never wanted to reach out to us and she never wanted to hear our side of the story,” Santana said.
Meili has maintained that she believes that more than one person attacked her. She still doesn't remember the horrific event but she believes, based on evidence, that there was a second person there.
"I always knew that there was at least one more person involved because there was unidentified DNA," Meili said, according to ABC News. "So when I heard the news that there was an additional person found whose DNA matched, that wasn't a tremendous surprise. But when he said that he and he alone had done it, that's when some of the turmoil started, wondering 'Well, how can that be?'"
In 2003, in an interview with Katie Couric she did say, “If [Reyes] is telling the truth, it’s a horrible thing if innocent people are sent to prison and — it only adds to the tragedy of that evening.”
Meili now works with survivors of sexual assault at Mount Sinai Hospital and Gaylord Hospital, according to Refinery 29. She also works with survivors of brain injuries, ABC News reports.
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