July 13, 2009 -- "I have to say that I am highly driven, and I am looking for that special someone that has the same qualities. ... I am also looking for a woman to be a leader and take the initiative and make things happen for herself, and not blaming others for incidentals that might happen along the way during the pathway of life. ... If you want to be my copilot on the magic carpet ride it's carry on only, that means no stop signs, no stop lights, and throttle up." -- from Jeffrey Marsalis' Match.com profile
He called himself "Dr. Jeff." His profile on Match.com said he was a trauma surgeon.
In one online photograph, he wore hospital scrubs, with a stethoscope. In another, he wore Navy whites and held a sword. There was one of him in an astronaut's suit. One sitting in a cockpit.
The lonely hearts who date online might expect a certain amount of innocent fudging in others' profiles. And there is always the risk of encountering the gross liar, whose online self-description has as little to do with the real person as scrubs have to do with the ability to operate.
But many of the women who dated Jeffrey Marsalis say he was much worse than a liar. Cops and criminal prosecutors would come to agree. And after years of frustrating delays and multiple trials, a jury in Idaho would confirm the worst.
Jessika Rovell, now a Washington, D.C., attorney, was one woman in Marsalis' life who did not meet him online. Her friend had met Marsalis at a Philadelphia club.
"My girlfriend said to me one night, 'Oh, I have a guy that you should meet. He is a doctor. He is a Navy officer.' And I said, 'Wow, he sounds great,'" she said.
Rovell, a law student living in the Philadelphia area at the time, decided to take the date.
She thought Marsalis, an aspiring model as a teen and former Emergency Medical Technician, had the clean-cut good looks and personal charm to match his impressive online resume.
"He was nice enough," Rovell said. "He seemed very interesting ... very ambitious."
Rovell and Marsalis quickly fell into what she thought was a committed relationship. But then, she said, red flags began to appear.
"Things just started getting weird ... Just bizarre behavior, you know?" said Rovell. "He, he would disappear for a while at a time."
The explanation he gave for his disappearances was even more bizarre.
"He told me that he was a CIA agent, that the whole doctor thing was a 'cover.' He would come back and say, 'Well, you know, I was on a mission and...'"
And she believed him?
"It was convincing," said Rovell. "He had a CIA screensaver with the seal on his computer. He had a fingerprint reader to access his computer. He had guns. He had a bulletproof vest."
At one point he proposed marriage, and Rovell said yes. She now says it was because she feared him.
"Any time I tried to get out of the relationship, he would threaten me with something. ... It would range from he was going to kill a member of my family or one of my friends, he was going to cause me to lose my job. ... It, it was horrible."
Police Hear Complaints About Jeffrey Marsalis
Rovell said that as her questions about Marsalis grew, something else began to haunt her, from a night very early on in their relationship -- a night that had gone very wrong.
"It was our second date. We decided that we are just gonna rent some movies and have some Chinese food," she said.