Grace Rasmussen in Real Life: Edna Hendershot Today



One of the main characters in Netflix’s new true crime TV series, Unbelievable, is Grace Rasmussen. She’s portrayed by Toni Collette. But who is Rasmussen in real life? Although no one with that name was actually involved in this true crime story, the character of Rasmussen is inspired by the real-life Edna Hendershot. Hendershot helped track down the serial rapist who is at the center of the Unbelievable series. This post will have spoilers about the outcome of the case, so only read on if you’re OK being spoiled. 

The complete true story of the Unbelievable case can be found in ProPublica and The Marshall Project’s Pulitzer-prize winning article, which you can read here.

Detectives Edna Hendershot  & Stacy Galbraith Worked Together To Solve the Crimes & Catch the Rapist

Detective Edna Hendershot from Westminster is the real-life inspiration for the character Grace Rasmussen on Unbelievable. She’s the one that Detective Karen Duvall (who is based on real-life detective Stacy Galbraith) calls after her husband suggested there was a similar rape case to the one she was pursuing in a different jurisdiction.

In 2010, Hendershot had investigated a rape case involving a 59-year-old woman in Westminster who was raped by a man in a black mask who stole her pink Sony camera. Hendershot had also been told about a similar 2009 case from Aurora, Colorado. She helped put all the pieces together to track down the rapist.

When Galbraith first reached out to her, Hendershot had already worked more than 200 rape cases, ProPublica’s report shared. She was also the one who discovered the honeycomb marks on the gloves and pursued that connection, which helped identify the rapist. It was her and Galbraith’s work that finally identified the serial rapist and ultimately proved Marie wasn’t making up her own reported rape back in 2008.

Hendershot told 48 Hours in a 2017 interview: “Our victims spanned age ranges. The victim in Aurora was in her 60s. …the victim in Golden was in her 20s. The Westminster victim was 59 years old. Trying to figure out what is it they have in common that would make them targets for this particular individual, that was very frustrating… There was not (consistency.)”

But they finally did put the pieces together in a dramatic, deliberate fashion that Unbelievable illustrates step-by-step. The detectives’ ability to work together is what eventually solved the case. The rapist had committed his crimes in different jurisdictions, assuming the different departments wouldn’t work together. But they proved his assumption wrong.

Hendershot Was Promoted to Sergeant in the Westminster Police Department

"48 Hours" investigates the hunt for a serial rapistMaureen Maher joins CBSN to discuss her "48 Hours" report, "Hunted," about the search for a serial rapist.2016-11-18T16:04:10.000Z

Hendershot said she got “shiver bumps” when she was finally able to tell once of the rape victims (a 59-year-old widow) that they had caught the rapist. She met her at a Denny’s when she shared that they had finally solved the case. “I get shiver bumps thinking about it … even now,” Henderson told ProPublica.

She was later promoted to sergeant in the Westminster Police Department, 48 Hours shared. She’s currently listed as being part of the Adamas, Broomfield and Aurora region’s Crisis Intervention Teams Association of Colorado.

There are some minor differences between the character Rasmussen in Unbelievable and the real-life Hendershot, Esquire reported. Rasmussen is portrayed as getting engaged during the investigation, while Hendershot was married the entire time in real life.

The book “A False Report” by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong gives some more details about Hendershot. She grew up in Arvada, Colorado and her father was involved in local politics. She studied criminal justice in college while working at Wendy’s. She started out as a records clerk in 1990, then was a 911 dispatcher, and finally graduated from police academy. She was hired as a patrol officer in 1994. After five years, she joined the drug task force and was very good at undercover work. Her first marriage ended in divorce, but she was married a second time in 2007 to Mike Hendershot, a sergeant in Golden (and later a commander at a different agency.) She left undercover work after she was married and focused on solving crimes like rapes.

But despite some minor differences, overall the details between the character and the real-life Hendershot are quite close. And the story of how they solved the crime is very similar to real-life.

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