LINCOLN COUNTY, N.C. -- You think you are safe when you are in the hospital, but a Lincoln County woman says she was a patient when her doctor raped her.
Dr. John Marshall is charged with that crime and when we did some digging we found a trail of women who have complained to authorities about this doctor for decades.
Wednesday morning a lawyer for the doctor, David Rudolf of Rudolf Widenhouse and Fialko, made an unusual move by filing a slander suit against the alleged victim that claims her story is all lies.
We sat down with the alleged victim, Gwen Zinn several weeks ago. She wanted to use her name and show her face during our interview because police have said there are other victims in the case.
Zinn is a 53-year-old grandmother and mother of five.
She says, “It’s been extremely difficult. It’s a nightmare, I don’t have any peaceful days. I am in therapy.”
She tells a story that had Lincolnton police detectives investigating for a year and a half before they brought charges.
“This absolutely should never have happened. I was in a secure environment. I was in a place you would think you could trust,” Zinn says.
Zinn's story begins in 1996 when she was 35. It was Memorial Day weekend.
She went to the emergency room at what was then Lincoln Medical Center.
“I'd been very sick, I was nauseated, dehydrated, throwing up,” she says.
A Lincolnton OBGYN, Dr. John Marshall, was assigned her care, but according to court documents filed in connection with the criminal charges, Marshall told detectives the hospital had him on probation at the time, so he had to provide a second doctor to shadow him.
Zinn says, “I wasn’t fully conscious when they placed me on the bed. When I came to I could see the older doctor to the left of me and he said he was doing a breast exam and when I looked down at the bottom of me I could feel pressure and John Marshall was penetrating me, he was raping me.”
We asked, “And you remember this clearly?” She responded, “I remember it very clearly.”
She says she told her now ex-husband about what happened.
“Something happened to me in there. I was raped. I know this doctor raped me.”
Her then husband discouraged her from doing anything.
“He just kept convincing me that no one would believe me that I had had a shower, erased any kind of DNA evidence that we should leave things alone. At that point I shut down, I completely shut down, just tried to forget it.”
She says she did, until last year, when she was flipping through the yellow pages and came across Dr. Marshall's name.
“Everything at that moment, it was like a mad rush coming through my mind and everything came rushing back, right there in my face as to what he had done to me.”
This time she went right to police.
After an 18 month investigation, police charged Marshall with raping Gwen Zinn, and a grand jury indicted him. The other doctor, the required shadow, has since died.
Zinn’s attorney, Adam Seifer, of Seifer Flatow, PLLC, says “The detectives investigated for a year, year and a half, and in a situation where you’re talking about 17 years elapsing ,obviously no DNA evidence, the fact that they felt strongly enough to push for charges after that long, normally detectives are not going to bring charges that long after the fact.”
“I blame myself for not coming forward, not being a stronger woman,” Zinn said.
We went through pages and pages of court documents in Gwen's case, including the probable cause affidavit that reveals others have spoken to police about Dr. Marshall’s behavior.
There's a young woman who says she was at her first gynecological exam when Dr. Marshall touched her and himself inappropriately.
There’s also a mother who says at her pre-teen daughters first gynecological exam she was in the room when Dr. Marshall touched her daughter in an inappropriate way and that he was “enjoying this in a sexually gratifying way for himself.”
We also tracked down Danielle Marlow who worked as Marshall's receptionist.
We asked, “Were you surprised to see the allegations against him?”
She responded, “Not at all. No.”
“Why not?” we asked.
“Because of the way he treated me,” Marlow said. “I would be working at the desk and he would walk up behind me and he would rub my shoulders and I would say please remove your hands from my shoulders and he would say I’m sorry. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? It does, and then repeatedly, every day, he would do it again,” she told us.
After she says he showed up at her house and let himself in uninvited, she laid out those allegations in a complaint she filed with the medical board.
“He really creeped me out to the point that I didn’t go to work,” she said.
Board records show Dr. Marshall responded saying, “his actions were not sexual advances” and he “did not enter her home.”
Zinn says, “My whole goal is to stop him and make sure that he is never going to hurt or touch another person.”
North Carolina medical board records show Marshall took a leave from Lincoln Medical just a month after he treated Gwen and the board temporarily suspended his license to practice medicine, granting him a temporary license a few months later that required a chaperone be present any time he examines a patient.
Board records show “the board had concerns about Dr. Marshall’s manner of interacting with patients.”
That “Dr. Marshall admits his manner of interacting with patients has at times…made some of these patients uncomfortable.”
He was again reprimanded in 2003, and his license indefinitely suspended in 2011. Each time he faced different allegations, ranging from unprofessional conduct with a nurse, to not keeping sufficient medical records to not ensuring continuity of care for patients.
We tried to talk with Dr. Marshall at his home but he refused to open the door, telling us he had “no comment.”
But Gwen Zinn is grateful Dr. Marshall will have to answer to someone. He’s currently awaiting trial.
“Do you ever get past something like this? I don't think so. I think I'll learn to cope but it’s always gonna be hard to go into any secure environment and feel safe.”
The complaint against the alleged victim claims slander. While the doctors attorney, David Rudolf, did not return our calls, the complaint states medical records from Zinn's stay in the hospital disprove her claims.
Zinn's attorneys say she is standing by her story.
The district attorney’s office tells us they are currently considering additional charges against Dr. Marshall.
The hospital, that is now owned by Carolinas Healthcare Systems, told us because there are legal proceedings, they could not comment on the case.