What Happened To Jessika Rovell? New Details About Woman Catfished By Jeffrey Marsalis

Photo: ABC News
What Happened To Jessika Rovell? New Details About Woman Catfished Into Falling For A Monster Known As Dr. Date Rape
Entertainment And News

The dating scene is rough out there, and with apps and websites becoming such a popular way to meet people, it's becoming more and more common for love stories to begin on the internet. But some people use these sites in a pretty sinister way — we've all seen Catfish — and as one woman, Jessika Rovell, learned, it's pretty easy to end up with someone with the wrong intentions. 

In the early 2000s, a man named Jeffrey Marsalis made a habit of luring women in online and then would drug and rape them, pretending like nothing had happened the next morning, and Rovell was among them.

What happened to Jessika Rovell? Here's everything we know about her experience with Jeffrey Marsalis and how she got away.

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Jeffrey Marsalis posed as a doctor online. 

Marsalis began by creating a profile on Match.com, where he posed as a doctor — calling himself "Dr. Jeff" — and according to his profile on the site, his standards were high.

"I have to say that I am highly driven, and I am looking for that special someone that has the same qualities," his profile said. "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." 

Not only did Marsalis claim that he was a doctor, but he also pretended to have many other careers, too, like CIA agent and astronaut. 

Marsalis and Rovell connected through a mutual friend.

Though many of Marsalis' victims met him online, he and Rovell were actually introduced by one of her friends who had met him in a club in Philadelphia and thought they'd be a good match. They hit it off, and Rovell thought he was "ambitious," but it didn't take long before things took a turn for the worst.  

He eventually proposed, but Rovell knew something wasn't right.

Marsalis told Rovell that he was in the CIA, and she felt like their relationship was becoming more and more "bizarre." Eventually, he asked her to marry him, and even though she kept seeing red flags popping up — like the morning when she woke up after their date, not remembering the night before even though she'd had very little to drink — for her own safety, she felt like she had to say yes.

"Any time I tried to get out of the relationship, he would threaten me with something," she said in a 2009 interview. "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."

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Rovell managed to get out, filing for a restraining order against Marsalis. 

Finally, Rovell decided enough was enough. In 2005, she decided to move on, getting a restraining order against her ex-fiancé to protect herself. As it turns out, she was right to follow her gut, because by 2009, Rovell would be sentenced to life in prison in Pennsylvania for multiple counts of sexual assault and date rape. 

Rovell was hardly Marsalis' only victim.

After someone reached out to Rovell from the Philadelphia Special Victims Unit, she'd find out that more than a dozen other women had stories involving Marsalis that were similar to hers, and they described their own experiences of waking up with no memories of the night before after spending time with Marsalis. It wasn't just Rovell who had been drugged by him — there was a laundry list of women who he'd victimized as well. 

Today, Rovell is an attorney and seems to be doing much better.

According to her Twitter account, Rovell is now a lawyer living in Virginia who also serves as a Department of Defense certified Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate, even having founded an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

Interested in learning more about what happened to Rovell? Her story is featured on the Investigation Discovery show Web of Lies in an episode called "Playing Doctor." 

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Nicole Pomarico is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Cosmo, Us Weekly, Refinery29, and more.

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