In Lynnwood, Washington, an 18-year-old woman, referred to as "Marie", reported being bound, gagged and raped at knifepoint to police. Following police confrontation about inconsistencies in her story, she said that it might have been a dream and later said that she made the incident up.

Marie had made her report in August 2008 to Sergeant Jeffrey Mason and Jerry Rittgarn. Police guidelines advised that rape victims may be uncertain of details or report conflicting information; police should not interrogate victims or use polygraph tests, which do not provide reliable evidence. Investigating Marie's report, police found evidence of an assailant entering via a back porch and abrasions to Marie's vagina and wrist. Marie told two of her foster parents about the incident, but both began to disbelieve her due to her calm and detached demeanor. One parent reported his doubts about Marie's honesty to the police.

In August 2008, Marie told Project Ladder case managers that she had made the report under duress and they made her return to the police station. She wanted to take a polygraph test, but Rittgarn told her that she would be jailed and lose her housing if she failed it. Marie declined. After she was made to tell the other Project Ladder participants about her false report, she considered suicide. Later, Marie received notice of a false reporting charge against her filed by Mason. Such charges are rare unless a named person's reputation was damaged or substantial investigate resources were used. Following the charge, Marie quit her job and was the subject of media reports and an attack website made by a former best friend.

Following this report, and Marie's conflicting account of whether she phoned a friend before or after cutting her bindings free, Mason wondered whether Marie was lying. Mason and Rittgarn made Marie repeat her story. Rittgarn told her that he thought she had made the incident up. He asked if the rapist was real and she quietly said "no". Without reading the Miranda warning, they asked her to provide written confirmation that she made a false report. She wrote instead that she had dreamed the incident, now unsure whether the incident was real. After hours of further questioning, Marie eventually agreed to write that she had been lying.

In October 2008, one of Marie's foster parents saw a television report of a 63-year-old woman in Kirkland, Washington who had been raped in exactly the manner that Marie had described. The parent called Kirkland police, who abandoned the lead after calling Lynnwood police at least twice to be told that Marie's account was a lie.

In March 2009, she was charged with a gross misdemeanor: she was fined $500, put on probation and made to attend counseling. Marie had been sexually and physically abused in early life and was in foster care for most of her childhood. She joined Project Ladder at age 18, a program designed to help young adults transition from foster care to living alone. The project offered subsidized housing and Marie had a job at Costco.

In Golden, Colorado during January 2011, Detective Stacy Galbraith interviewed a woman who reported being tied and raped at gunpoint for four hours by a masked man who threatened to post pictures he took during the incident online if she told anyone. The man forced her to shower and brush her teeth afterward and took her bedding with him. When Galbraith talked to her husband, he recognized details of the case from an incident reported to the police department where he worked in nearby Westminster, Colorado. Galbraith began a collaboration with Westminster Detective Edna Hendershot, who had investigated two cases in which women aged 59 and 65 were raped in similar ways. They also discovered a burglary in which a masked man had attempted to tie up a 46-year-old woman. The woman managed to jump out of her window, breaking three ribs and puncturing a lung. The four known cases took place in different suburbs of Denver. The man had gone to extreme lengths to avoid leaving DNA evidence, but three touch DNA samples were obtained from three of the crime scenes. The analysis showed that the DNA belonged to the same paternal family line, but was too limited to make further conclusions.

In February 2011, a relevant report was unearthed of a suspicious vehicle registered to army veteran Marc Patrick O'Leary, whose physical description matched the attacker. FBI agents surveilled O'Leary's house. They discovered that O'Leary lived with his brother Michael, from whom they collected DNA evidence that demonstrated that one of the brothers was the rapist.

In February 2011, a search warrant led to the arrest of Marc O'Leary, whose birthmark matched the attackers. In his house, they discovered a mask, a gun, a camera, a collection of women's underwear and other evidence that matched victims' accounts.

By March, Marie was identified from photographs on O'Leary's hard drive, including one of her provisional license. O'Leary had broken into over a dozen houses before his rape of Marie. He watched women for hundreds of hours, breaking into their houses multiple times to collect information, before committing each rape.

In December 2011, O'Leary was sentenced to 327.5 years in prison for the four incidents in Colorado. In June 2012, he was sentenced to an additional 38.5 years for the two incidents in Washington.

Unbelievable is an American drama web television miniseries starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever. It is about a series of rapes in Washington and Colorado. The show was co-created by Susannah Grant, Ayelet Waldman, and Michael Chabon. All three co-creators and Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Katie Couric were executive producers. It was released on September 13, 2019, on Netflix.