A Pennsylvania woman is speaking out after an Iowa hotel employee handed a man she didn’t know the key to her hotel room. She ended up being raped for hours.
On April 10, 2014, Cheri Marchionda was traveling alone for work and checked into the Iowa Embassy Suites hotel in Des Moines. In the middle of the night, a man crept in her room and sexually assaulted her for hours. While speaking to “CBS This Morning,” Cheri explained that a hotel room employee gave the man a key to her room without bothering to check for identification and without even checking to see if he was a registered guest at the hotel.
“The next thing I remember was someone touching my leg,” Marchionda explained. “And it startled me. I woke up thinking I was at home. So at first I’m like, rubbing my eyes. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. No, you’re in this room, and then who is this guy?'”
Marchionda, a single mother of three who was on a business trip at the time, said she was frozen in fear and couldn’t remember if she screamed or not. She said the man had something in his hand but she was so overcome with panic, she didn’t know what it was.
“‘I’m this tough girl, and I’ve been traveling all along,’ and you know, you think if it ever happens to you, you’re gonna kick butt. And in that moment, you want to survive, and that’s all I thought about, was surviving. Because I have these three beautiful children I wanted to go home to.”
Police later identified Cheri’s attacker as Christopher Lapointe, a regular at the hotel. Lapointe apparently saw Cheri at the hotel bar the previous night and flirted with her, but she remembered him being loud and obnoxious and declined his advances. He later stopped her in the elevator, and again, she politely refused his requests.
After Cheri left the bar and went to her room, Lapointe made a call to her room and asked her if she wanted to hang out with him.
“My room phone rang. I pick up the phone, and that’s when he said, ‘Do you want to hang out?’ And I recognized the voice from the last two days, and I said, ‘No.’ And that’s when I said, ‘How did you get this number?’ And he said to me, ‘I have friends.'”
Cheri said at that point she wasn’t scared. She put the security lock on the hotel door for added measure and felt like the room was her “safe haven.” However, Lapointe called the front desk and told the hotel clerk to send up a maintenance worker to help him with the security lock.
The hotel clerk complied. The employee once again failed to ask for identification and dispatched the maintenance worker. LaPointe told the maintenance worker that he was staying in the room with his girlfriend, but she locked him out after having an argument, according to the Des Moines Register.
The maintenance worker also failed to check LaPointe’s identification.
Lapointe was found guilty of sexual abuse in December 2014 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, but for Cheri, that isn’t enough. In 2015, she filed a civil suit against the owners and managers of the Des Moines Embassy Suites. She settled the lawsuit this month for a confidential amount, but it came after years of trauma and nightmares that left her on disability.
Cheri, who was once an executive at a major U.S. frozen food manufacturer, was left with post-traumatic stress disorder, forcing her to take long-term disability.
“I’m on long-term disability now, which then eliminated my position at my company,” Cheri explained.
Cheri didn’t speak about the incident publicly for years, but once the lawsuit settled, she decided she needed to warn the public about hotel safety. She hopes that a new security system will one day be utilized in hotels that can keep guests safe.
“So, people are aware that when you think you’re gonna go into a hotel room, and that you’re gonna go to sleep and close your eyes, and that you’re safe, you’re not,” she said. “They need to figure out a better system within the industry to figure out how to keep people safe.”
LaPointe later apologized and blamed his actions on alcohol.
“I wake up every morning and go to bed each night reminded of my actions and feel nothing but remorse,” he wrote in a court document.
[Feature Photo: Cheri Marchionda and Christopher LaPointe/Facebook; Police Handout]