One of the main detectives on Netflix’s true crime TV series, Unbelievable, is Detective Karen Duvall, played by Merritt Wever. You might be surprised to learn that there is no Karen Duvall in real life. In fact, the character of Duvall is inspired by and based on the real-life detective Stacy Galbraith. This post will have spoilers about the outcome of the case, so only read on if you’re OK being spoiled.
It’s not completely clear why Stacy Galbraith’s name was changed to Karen Duvall for the series, but the same was done for the other lead detective, Grace Rasmussen. The character of Rasmussen (played by Toni Collette) was based on the real-life Detective Edna Hendershot.
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 Stacy Galbraith & Edna Hendershot Worked Together To Catch the Rapist
The rapist, who was ultimately caught, committed his crimes in different jurisdictions so he could avoid being caught. He thought that since police departments rarely worked together, his plan would allow him to escape undetected. And it worked until Detectives Karen Duvall and Stacy Galbraith started comparing notes, ProPublica reported.
In real life, Galbraith’s story is very similar to the one portrayed by the character Duvall on Unbelievable. She was investigating a rape case that her husband, who worked in a different police department, believed was very similar to one that he had heard about. So when Duvall reached out to that department, she ended up talking to Hendershot. They compared notes and realized they were after the same person: a serial rapist.
What they uncovered ultimately proved that Marie’s own story was real. She had not lied all those years earlier, and if the detectives had listened to her then, maybe they would have caught the rapist before he committed so many other crimes.
Unbelievable goes into detail about Galbraith’s and Hendershot’s investigations, as they uncover the rapist’s identity step-by-step. The story in Unbelievable closely matches what actually happened in real life.
Stacy Galbraith worked as a detective in Golden, Colorado, CBS News reported. The first victim she spoke to was 29. Her attacker had taken pictures of her with a pink Sony camera, which matched the description of the camera stolen from a rape victim that Hendershot was working with.
Ultimately, when the identified the rapist, they also found computers with files and photos, including photos of Marie. They were able to prove that Marie’s story was true. But to this day, the rapist still has encrypted computers that investigators haven’t been able to open, which might reveal more victims, CBS News shared.
Stacy Galbraith Is an Agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation & Worked on the Christopher Watts Case
Today, Stacy Galbraith is an agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, CBS News reported. She moved to the CBI sometime after she received the “Officer of the Year” award in 2012 from the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. A photo of her receiving the award is shown above. She received the award for her 2011 work in the Criminal Investigations Section of the Golden Police Department which culminated in the capture of the rapist at the center of the Unbelievable story.
But she also received the award for other reasons, the City of Golden noted:
In addition to that landmark case, Det. Galbraith was also the lead detective on a bank robbery and a domestic murder case with suspects arrested in both. Det. Galbraith was nominated for Officer of the Year by Golden Police Chief Bill Kilpatrick, who says he takes exceptional pride in having her on the department. ‘Det. Galbraith is an extraordinarily talented investigator,’ said Chief Kilpatrick. ‘She is knowledgeable, dedicated, tenacious and committed to finding the truth. This is a well deserved honor.’
Today she still speaks on occasion about the case. Below is an ad for an appearance she made on a local PBS station with Ken Armstrong, who is the author of “A False Report,” a book based on the same case.
She still advocates for rape survivors. In an interview with CNN in 2018, she talked about how it’s their duty to listen to rape survivors and fully investigate their claims. You can watch the interview below.
This isn’t the only high-profile case that she’s been involved with. As a member of the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, she is signed onto the “endorsed witness list” for The People of the State of Colorado vs. Christopher Lee Watts. Christopher Watts is the man who confessed to killing his pregnant wife and their two young daughters.