Six rape survivors may never have gotten justice if it wasn't for two female officers who decided to team up to take the rapist down. Netflix's Unbelievable tells this true story, and, though the names have been changed, it's based on enough truth to figure out who plays who. Meritt Weaver's character Karen Duvall is based on detective Stacy Galbraith, who got the ball rolling on the investigation in the first place.
According to the in-depth ProPublica piece, upon which the Netflix series is based, Galbraith took a Colorado rape case and later discussed the details with her husband, who was also a cop. He mentioned that his department had a similar case. So Galbraith decided to reach out to multiple departments to get more information. Then-detective Edna Hendershot saw the email and had a similar case of her own. Together, Galbraith and Hendershot worked to find the perpetrator. "I have no qualms with asking for help," Galbraith said, according to ProPublica. "Let's do what we can do to catch him."
The two women eventually did catch the rapist Marc O'Leary, who was later sentenced to over 300 years in prison for his multiple attacks. ProPublica reported that Galbraith is the one who arrested him. "She was wearing new boots that day. Whenever she looked at them in the future, she would remember catching O’Leary," ProPublica reported. "I wanted to see the look on his face, I guess," she said. "And for him to know that we figured you out."
O'Leary was sentenced in 2011. In 2017, CBS News reported that Galbraith had since changed jobs and was an agent at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). As of 2018, she was still advocating for rape survivors. "Just listen to the victims, men, women, children … It's our duty to listen to them and investigate," Stacy Galbraith said in a CNN interview. The outlet reported that she was then a major crimes agent, likely still for the CBI.
Listening to survivors is part of how Galbraith tracked down O'Leary. According to ProPublica, the woman from the first case Galbraith was on had mentioned that her attacker had an egg-shaped birthmark on his leg. When Galbraith later arrested O'Leary, she immediately checked him for the birthmark. Sure enough, there it was. After investing all their time in solving these cases, Hendershot and Galbraith had their man, and justice could finally be served.
Unbelievable is available on Netflix now
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.