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Victim in fugitive-rapist case goes public after guilty verdict

June 20, 1997

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ For the past 11 years, she has been known as ``the alleged victim″ and ``the accuser″ _ the woman who said Alex Kelly raped her.

Now, strengthened by a jury’s guilty verdict, she wants the world to know her name. She is Adrienne Bak Ortolano. At 27, she has waited nearly half her life for justice.

And when she heard the foreman of the jury that convicted the former high school wrestling star last week of raping her say ``guilty,″ she cried.

``The first thing I thought was, thank God, thank God the world knows the truth,″ she said Thursday in one of the first interviews she has granted since Kelly was convicted last week.

For years, she thought she might never hear that word.

Adrienne Bak was a freckle-faced, 16-year-old virgin when she accepted a ride home from Kelly after a party on the night of Feb. 10, 1986. Kelly, then 18, was the handsome co-captain of the Darien High School wrestling team.

About 30 minutes after they left, she burst into her home and said Kelly had just raped her in a borrowed Jeep. She told her family he choked her, forced her into the vehicle’s cargo area, raped her, and threatened to rape her again and kill her if she told anyone.

It was a story she would repeat over and over during the next 11 years _ to the police, to prosecutors, to lawyers, to therapists, and then, to two separate juries.

``The worst moment of my life was being raped by Alex Kelly,″ she said. ``I felt defeated. I felt taken advantage of. I felt violated. I felt hurt and scared,″ she said.

Kelly, free on bail while he awaits sentencing next month, has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment. His lawyer did not return several messages left by The Associated Press.

Now 30, Kelly fled to Europe in 1987 after he was charged in her rape and a second rape _ four days later _ of a 17-year-old Stamford girl. He was on the run for eight years, living what authorities would later describe as a ski bum’s lifestyle financed by his wealthy parents.

While Kelly traveled across Europe, Adrienne Bak says she was struggling to get on with her life. She eventually earned a degree in communications from Northeastern University.

She fell madly in love with a handsome sales representative, Chris Ortolano, who would later become her husband and stand by her through both trials. She now works as a pharmaceutical sales representative and the couple has since moved to New Jersey. She would not disclose the town.

``I had an obligation to myself to not allow this to become my life,″ she said of the case. ``It was very frustrating for a long time. It was difficult to move on. There was always a part of me that felt I had been robbed, but some things you just can’t change.″

In 1994, after Kelly had been gone seven years, authorities raided his parents’ Darien home and found letters from him that helped them narrow his whereabouts. Bak also hired a lawyer to help find Kelly, who eventually surrendered in Switzerland.

Whatever sense of relief she felt when he was found quickly vanished when he returned to the United States to stand trial. On the first day of that trial, she saw Kelly for the first time since the rape.

``The first time I looked at him ... everything came back to me,″ she said. ``I could hear his voice. I could hear the words he said to me that night. I felt scared all over again.″

She was devastated when the first trial ended in a mistrial.

``I felt helpless,″ she said. ``I thought, I have done everything humanly possible ... and it wasn’t enough. I kept asking myself, `Why don’t they see the obvious truth?‴

She says the pain and frustration of the last 11 years will be worthwhile if it helps persuade other women who have been raped to come forward.

`It’s a positive feeling to be able to stand up and accuse your attacker, and to tell the truth the way it happened,″ she said.

``The most important thing to me is that people know that I’m not ashamed of who I am. I am a rape survivor. I don’t have anything to hide.″

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