(NBC News) — On “Dateline,” in the weeks after 36-year-old mother Donna Palomba was raped, investigators accuse her of lying and threaten her with arrest.
Eleven years later, police finally track down her attacker and reveal his identity, sending shockwaves throughout the community.
Donna speaks out in Friday’s broadcast about her years-long journey for justice and the latest developments in the case, including the fight to keep her assailant from walking free
Here’s a preview of Andrea Canning’s report:
John Palomba was due home on Sunday, Sept. 12. He had no idea a nightmare awaited him.
DONNA PALOMBA: I KNEW JOHN WOULD BE CRUSHED.
Donna had gone to the hospital for a sex crimes examination, her rapist’s DNA collected. Now she steeled herself to tell John what had happened.
ANDREA CANNING: HE ASSUMES EVERYTHING WAS OKAY AT HOME.
DONNA PALOMBA: RIGHT.
ANDREA CANNING: –AND THEN HE WALKS THROUGH THE DOOR AND HIS LIFE CHANGES IN AN INSTANT.
DONNA PALOMBA: ABSOLUTELY
Almost three decades later, John Palomba still has trouble talking about that day.
JOHN PALOMBA: AND IT JUST– YOU KNOW, IT– IT– IT HURT ME THAT THERE WAS NOTHIN’ I COULD DO. I WAS ANGRY. I WAS VERY ANGRY I MEAN —
ANDREA CANNING: DID YOU FEEL ANY KIND OF– ANY OF THAT GUILT THAT, “OH, I SHOULDN’T HAVE —”
JOHN PALOMBA: OH, I HA–
ANDREA CANNING: –“GONE? I SH —”
JOHN PALOMBA: ABSOLUTELY. I FELT THAT I LET ‘EM DOWN. I WASN’T THERE. THAT’S WHAT HURT. IS– IS THAT– YOU JUST FELT LIKE YOU LET YOUR FAMILY DOWN.
It hurt even more because John had always been vigilant. Super protective.
JOHN PALOMBA: I USED TO TELL HER ALL THE TIME, “MAKE SURE THE DOORS ARE LOCKED.” IF I’M GOIN’ OUT FOR A WALK, MAKE SURE THE DOORS ARE LOCKED.
At first, the police made slow progress. Donna went over her memories of the assault again and again — hoping to retrieve details to help them.
The investigators were stumped by one question in particular — how did the attacker get into the house? Donna told them the doors were always locked at night.
Watch “Dateline: Evil Paid A Visit,” Friday at 9 p.m. on NBC4.
“Dateline NBC” is the longest-running series in NBC primetime history and is in its 30th season. Dateline is anchored by Lester Holt and features correspondents Andrea Canning, Josh Mankiewicz, Natalie Morales, Keith Morrison and Dennis Murphy.
Dateline is the #1 Friday newsmagazine and reaches more than 17 million people every week through its broadcast, and millions more through its social media platforms and podcasts.
The stories range from compelling mysteries to powerful documentaries and in-depth investigations. When major news breaks, they go to the scene, putting the pieces together to bring the viewer the full picture. And in every story they tell, they help the real people who lived the events share their journeys with the viewer.
This past season, Dateline debuted two new podcasts, “Mommy Doomsday” and “Killer Role,” hosted by correspondent Keith Morrison.
In February, NBC also greenlit a straight-to-series inspired by the story featured in the Dateline podcast series, “The Thing About Pam.” Two-time Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger will star and executive produce the series, in collaboration with Blumhouse Television, NBC News Studios and Zellweger’s Big Picture Co.