The real life stories and faces behind Netflix's gripping new series Unbelievable.

Content Warning: This article contains references to rape and violence and might be triggering for some readers. 

In 2008, an 18-year-old woman named Marie called the police and told them that a man had broken into her apartment, tied her up and raped her at knife-point.

When police arrived at the home of the young Washington state woman, she was found crying on the couch, wrapped in a blanket.

In the hours that followed, Marie was forced to recount exactly how she was tied up and sexually assaulted – repeating her story over and over again.

But after recounting everything that she could remember, the people closest to her, including two of her former foster mothers, began to express their doubts about her story.

Take an exclusive inside look at Netflix’s Unbelievable below. Post continues after video.

In the end, the police came to the conclusion that Marie had lied about being raped, as two male detectives hounded her into recanting her report.

In a cruel twist, Marie was charged with filing a false report – despite the fact that she really was raped. And from there, her life began to slowly fall apart.

In 2016, Marie’s story, as well as the stories of other rape victims who were all attacked by a man named Marc Patrick O’Leary, were detailed in an essay by ProPublica and the Marshall Project titled An Unbelievable Story of Rape.

Now, the devastating true story has been reproduced into an eight-part Netflix series titled Unbelievable.

Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast The Spill discuss the true story behind new Netflix series Unbelievable.

Here are the real life faces and stories behind Netflix’s Unbelievable:

Kaitlyn Dever – Marie

Kaitlyn Dever portrays 18-year-old Marie Adler in the series. In real life, however, we don’t know Marie’s surname and Marie is her middle name. (She doesn’t want her real name revealed).


Although the main details of Marie’s story are shared in Unbelievable, ProPublica and the Marshall Project’s piece An Unbelievable Story of Rape details more of her backstory.

According to the essay, Marie’s upbringing involved moving around to various foster homes.

She only met her biological father once and had very little contact with her biological mother. She also suffered from sexual and physical abuse.

Marie in Netflix's Unbelievable. Image: Netflix.

The story read, "[Marie] does not know if she attended kindergarten. She remembers being hungry and eating dog food. She reports entering foster care at age six or seven."

At 18 years old, Marie moved into a one-bedroom apartment with assistance from a program called Project Ladder. It was there that Marie was attacked in 2008.

After recounting the attack to two of her former foster mums (called Judith and Colleen in the Netflix series), both women became suspicious of her story.

Later on, the two women confided in each other about Marie's story, leading Judith to tell the police about their doubts.

After Judith shared her suspicions, the police investigators began to question Marie's story, and she was charged for filing a false police report.

Thanks to the work of two female detectives, it was later proven that Marie had indeed been attacked that night.

Marie's foster parents reportedly apologised to her after the truth came out.


It's believed that in the years since she has left the state, and is now a truck driver. As of 2015, she's married and has two children.

Toni Collette – Detective Edna Hendershot, and Merritt Wever – Detective Stacy Galbraith

unbelievable true story
Merritt Wever and Toni Collette in Unbelievable. Image: Netflix.

Actress Toni Collette portrays Detective Grace Rasmussen in Unbelievable, who is based on real-life Detective Edna Hendershot, while Merritt Wever plays Detective Karen Duvall, who is based on real-life detective Stacy Galbraith.

The serial rapist who attacked Marie committed his crimes in different jurisdictions, believing he could avoid getting caught.

But when Detectives Hendershot and Galbraith joined forces, his plan fell apart.

While working on a rape case, Galbraith's husband, who worked in a different police department, pointed out another rape case that was very similar.

According to ProPublica, Galbraith contacted the Colorado police department and ending up getting in touch with Hendershot, who had worked over 100 sexual assault cases and was after the same perpetrator.


unbelievable true story
Edna Hendershot and Stacy Galbraith. Image: Twitter.

After identifying the rapist as Marc O'Leary by assembling tiny traces of DNA, the two detectives were able to prove that Marie's story was true when they found computers filled with photos of O'Leary's victims, including Marie.

Today, both detectives continue to advocate for rape survivors.

Eric Lange and Bill Fagerbakke – Sgt. Jeffrey Mason and Jerry Rittgarn

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Police detectives interrogate Marie in Unbelievable. Image: Netflix.

In Netflix's Unbelievable, the two male detectives that Marie primarily deals with after reporting the rape are Detective Parker (Eric Lange), and Detective Pruitt (Bill Fagerbakk).

In real life, however, the names of the two male officers are Sgt. Jeffrey Mason (who was the lead investigator) and Jerry Rittgarn.

As seen in Unbelievable, the two detectives believed Marie was lying about the assault, and coerced her to recant what she had reported about the incident, leading her to be charged with filing a false police report.

After an internal investigation into the mismanagement of Marie's case, neither Mason or Rittgarn received any sort of formal punishment.

Instead, Rittgarn left the police department, while Mason moved back to his previous position in narcotics.

Speaking to The Marshall Project after the truth about Marie's case came out, Mason said: "It wasn't her job to try to convince me. In hindsight, it was my job to get to the bottom of it – and I didn't".

Marc O'Leary – Blake Ellis

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Actor Blake Ellis portrays perpetrator Marc Patrick O'Leary in Unbelievable. Image: Netflix.

Actor Blake Ellis portrays perpetrator Marc Patrick O'Leary in Unbelievable. In the show, his name was Christopher McCarthy.

Marie was just one of O'Leary's many victims.

For years before he was caught, the serial rapist committed at least 28 sexual assaults in the Washington state and Denver area. He was also accused of kidnapping and burglary.

O'Leary stalked his victims, broke into their homes and often attacked them while they were sleeping.

In 2011, O'Leary was sentenced to 327 and a half years in prison, after pleading guilty to raping three women, including Marie.

In 2012, he was given a further 62 years after pleading guilty to a further two rape incidents.

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Marc O'Leary. Image: Colorado Department of Corrections.

It took years before all the pieces were put together and O'Leary was caught.

O'Leary, who is now 41 years old, was finally tracked down when female officers, Sgt. Edna Hendershot and detective Stacy Galbraith, joined forces to investigate the case.

He will live out the rest of his days in prison.

All eight episodes of Unbelievable are available on Netflix now.

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