Quick-Change Artist Beats Conviction, at First


For more than three years, Jessika Rovell shared her life with a man who seemed like a fantasy match. He was a trauma surgeon, he told her. He was a Navy officer. He had clean-cut good looks and a ready smile.

So taken was Rovell with Jeffrey Marsalis that she managed to block out a disturbing episode from the earliest days of their relationship.

A law student living near Philadelphia at the time, Rovell had passed out after sharing some wine with Marsalis at her apartment and remembered nothing in the morning, she said. But she knew that the two had had sexual intercourse, she said, and she found it disconcerting that Marsalis acted happy, as if nothing were strange or wrong.

Early misgivings about Marsalis would later turn to horror for Rovell. It emerged that almost nothing about his proffered identity was true. Most disturbing was the real cause of his occasional disappearances, which he had told her were related to his work with the CIA.

In fact, prosecutors said, Marsalis was hunting women to drug and rape, using an online dating profile and the name "Dr. Jeff."

Click HERE for Part 1 of the Jeffrey Marsalis story.

By the time Marsalis was finally convicted of rape, in April 2009 in Idaho, 21 women in the Philadelphia area had told police he raped or sexually assaulted them, in incidents occurring between 2001 and 2005. Ten of those cases were prosecuted.

During that time, Marsalis and Rovell kept up a long-term relationship, at one point even getting engaged.

It was only after she left him in March 2005 that she learned the extent of his duplicity. Then she began a four-year wait for justice, following the charges against him, meeting some of his alleged victims, hoping for a rape conviction.

In April 2005, after one of Marsalis' alleged date-rape victims went to Philadelphia police, investigators conducted a search of his apartment.

It turned out that "Dr. Jeff" was no doctor. He was a former emergency medical technician and nursing school dropout.

In Marsalis' apartment, police found a gun, a bulletproof vest and fake "top-secret" documents they say he had used to buttress his CIA story with Rovell.

Watch the full story Wednesday on "Primetime: Crime" at 10 p.m. ET

And there was a NASA photograph from his "work with NASA." He obtained it, it turned out, the way anyone would.

"We found out that these are pictures you take when you go down for your souvenirs at NASA," said Lt. Thomas McDevitt of the Philadelphia Police Department's special victims unit.

Authorities say the evidence that would break the case wide open was found right on Marsalis' computer.

"Mr. Marsalis had kept a list of names on his computer," said prosecutor Joe Khan. He called the list the "Yearly Calendar of Woman," Khan said.

"Under each year was a list of female first names -- each represented individual women that Mr. Marsalis had had sexual contact with," Khan said.

Police began contacting the women from the "calendar."

"When you have someone you realize is a predator, that makes you more motivated to make sure he's put away and not hurt anybody else," McDevitt said.

In April 2005, Marsalis was arrested and charged with rape. But he wasn't locked up for long. In a move that would later prove critical in this case, Marsalis posted bail and headed to Sun Valley, Idaho, where his family had owned property since he was a child. It would not be long before he encountered trouble there.

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