Ms. Ylen is 38 years old.
Sara Ylen said a stranger raped her in 2001 in a van in the parking lot of a store in Michigan. She said that besides the trauma of the rape, he also gave her a sexually transmitted disease.
When Ms. Ylen looked through police mugshots, she identified her attacker as James Grissom, who worked at the store of the parking lot where she'd been attacked.
Mr. Grissom, who had a previous sex-related charge on his record, was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to 15 to 35 years in prison.
That same year, Ms. Ylen impressed people with her courage when she went public about her ordeal in a prize-winning series of newspaper articles.
Two years after the conviction, Ylen called one of the detectives in the case and said she wanted to pursue sexual assault charges against her father and brother from when she was a child. She was told she needed to go to the county where she had lived at the time of the alleged assaults, which she did. Those investigators discovered that she had made additional rape allegations while on a trip to California in 2001—several months before she reported to police in Michigan that the attack in the Meijer parking lot involved a rape.This information eventually led a judge to conclude that Mr. Grissom had not received a fair trial, and he might not have raped Ms. Ylen.
The California reports showed that Ylen had a history of making accusations of rape and kidnapping. She claimed to have been abducted and raped in 2001 in Bakersfield, but her father told police it was not true. He said that his daughter had been sexually assaulted by a female member of their church between the ages of 10 and 12 and that the assault had never been reported nor had his daughter received any counseling. The father told police that his daughter “likes to have a lot of attention.”
Police determined that the Bakersfield abduction was a fabrication—as were accounts by Ylen that she had once been raped in the parking lot of a restaurant minutes before she went to dinner with her family.
One police report said officers suspected she was mentally unstable after she reported various stories of rape, including that she had been gang-raped by her brother and his friends in Michigan and that her brother had been convicted and sent to prison, but was released and found her in California, where he raped her again. None of the accounts could be verified.
In 2009, Ms. Ylen said that she had gotten cancer due to the first sexual assault and was near death. An insurance company paid almost $100,000 for her hospice care.
In 2012, she said she was raped again, and she showed bruises from the attack.
Her story about cancer prompted a church to hold a spaghetti dinner for her that raised over $10,000.
Yet the names of some of her cancer doctors were fake, and the doctors and the cancer clinic that were real said they had never treated her.
Police determined that the bruises from her most recent assault were created with makeup.
Mr. Grissom was released from prison in 2012, after spending 10 years in prison.
Ms. Ylen, who has two young children, was arrested and is being charged with multiple felonies.
- James Grissom, The National Registry of Exonerations>>
- Cancer, rape fraud case bowls over Mich. community, The Big Story>>