Man accused of drugging, raping online daters

This undated photo from the Philadelphia Police Department shows Jeffrey J. Marsalis, 33, of Philadelphia. Marsalis faces trial on nine rape counts involving eight women, while a 10th charge is pending in Sun Valley, Idaho. AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

He was an online dater's dream: Tall, clean-cut, with a fashionable address and a taste for upscale bars and restaurants.

He said he was a doctor, an astronaut, a spy — though he was really an on-and-off nursing student. With woman after woman, he would slip something in their drinks and then rape them, police say.

Jeffrey J. Marsalis, 33, of Philadelphia, is facing trial on nine rape counts involving eight women, while a 10th charge is pending in Sun Valley, Idaho. He met most of the victims here through a popular online dating site, authorities said.

In court this week during Marsalis' preliminary hearing, the women told strikingly similar stories of meeting the smooth-talking Marsalis between 2003 and 2005, then feeling unusually intoxicated after returning from the bathroom or letting him buy a round from the bar.

They said they woke up hours later, back at his apartment — groggy, sometimes undressed — after an apparent sexual encounter or even in the middle of intercourse.

"It was like waking up from surgery," one woman said. "My body was there, and I could see what was going on around me, but I couldn't move."

Lawyer claims sex was consensual
Marsalis' lawyer says the women simply regret being duped about his accomplishments and dumped after consensual sex.

"Some of this may be buyer's remorse," defense lawyer Kathleen E. Martin said Thursday.

None of the Philadelphia victims — most of them well-educated professionals — went to police or a hospital afterward, Martin pointed out. Instead, police sought the women out after they seized Marsalis' computer as part of an earlier case.

Marsalis was acquitted of three similar assaults at a trial in Philadelphia in January. Before he could leave the courtroom, however, he was handcuffed by police and accused of the new charges. A judge later denied bail.

One of the women who testified this week said Marsalis posed as a doctor. When he visited her at a hospital he had a stethoscope around his neck and checked her chart, she said.

"This guy is not shy. He's confident. He's plotting," said Capt. John Darby, head of the city's sex crimes unit. "He showed IDs to a lot of these women supporting the various roles, positions that he seemingly held. He really put on a hell of a show."

Symptoms 'consistent' with date-rape drug
Prosecutors say it's difficult to prove the use of date-rape drugs, because they metabolize before victims are alert enough to get a drug screen. A jury could still find him guilty of rape if it decides the women were too impaired to consent to sex.

The woman in the Idaho case says she was raped in October 2005. She went to the hospital the next day. There is a gag order in the case, but Sun Valley police said in a news release that she experienced symptoms "consistent with having ingested a date-rape-type drug."

Marsalis met most of the women through The company said Thursday that it cannot monitor what goes on once their clients move from online communication to the real world.