A distance runner who represented the US at the Rio Olympics in 2016 has told how her dream of competing again at the Tokyo 2020 games was destroyed because of a three-year nightmare with a stalker.
Emily Infeld was training for a second round of the Olympics when a stranger became obsessed with her over the internet in 2018.
For the next three years the track star and her fiancé, Max Randolph, lived in a constant state in fear.
‘I was paranoid the whole time,’ she told ESPN. ‘I looked out the windows, I paced, I couldn’t be still. I was really scared.’
It all culminated in June 2020 when she learned that her mentally unstable stalker had moved two miles from her house, allegedly posting on LinkedIn that he came to kill her.
Emily Infeld did not qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after her training was thrown off due to a terrifying three-year ordeal with a stalker
Infeld competed in the Rio 2016 Olympics running in the 10,000-meter race
In April 2018, Infeld hurt her foot and logged into Facebook while icing her injury. When she opened Facebook Messenger, there were dozens of messages from a man named Craig Donnelly.
Donnelly ran cross country and track at Westmont College in California and Oklahoma Baptist University. He grew up suffering from epileptic seizures and on April 27, 2016, he had an epileptic seizure while out for a run.
The runner fell backwards and hit his head which lead to emergency brain surgery which a portion of his brain and skull were removed. Donnelly’s brain injury left him physically and mentally disabled.
But Infeld didn’t know anything about this man who messaged her. He simply introduced himself as a USA Track and Field coach writing, ‘I noticed that you’re injured, I want to recommend some things for your recovery,’ one message read attached with links to websites about hormone production and endurance running.
Never having heard of the young man with a goofy smile in his Facebook profile picture, Infeld sent screenshots of Donnelly’s messages to her coach, agent, and USA Track and Field to verify his identity but didn’t hear back.
The messages continued for the next few weeks as Donnelly carried on with his tips for her.
When Infeld asked him to stop and then blocked him, she began receiving calls from an unknown number who she believes was Donnelly but struggled to decipher what was being said.
In voicemail messages he appeared to be planning their wedding.
Craig Donnelly suffered a seizure in 2016 while out running which left him with permanent physical and mental disabilities
In one voicemail a man says, ‘I am easy to please and have only two requests. One is that the ceremony is not held in a church in Santa Barbara, California, and that’s in the jurisdiction of the annulment, and two is that the singer is also a Christian — Carrie Underwood.
‘I am pretty sure she will perform for free, much like I have provided professional services for free in the past.’
A few days later she got an email with the subject line, ‘Wedding preparation.’
It read , ‘The rings should be here on Tuesday, and my suit by end of the week (all black with probably my favorite light blue power tie.)’ The email said he would take a red-eye to Portland for the ceremony at 2 pm the next Sunday.
‘The archbishop who issued the annulment or one of his clergy will be officiating. We can cover the rest of all the preparations together including obtaining a license where you should keep your last name,’ the email read. ‘Everlasting, Craig.’
Donnelly began messaging Infeld on Facebook in 2018 and eventually moved to her town and threatened to kill her in 2020
Infeld told ESPN, ‘I felt weird in the pit of my stomach, but I still kept telling myself that there was no way this guy has my address.’ Her worst fears were confirmed when FedEx called three days later informing her that an expensive package would be delivered and needed a signature.
Overcome with emotion, Infled broke down in tears as she explained to the FedEx worker that the package was from a man who she did not know and asked that the package be sent back. The worker then informed her that she had another package being delivered from the same sender which Infeld refused to sign for.
The next day Infeld and her fiancé went to Home Depot to buy a security camera and left town for the weekend. She couldn’t stand to be home on Sunday at 2 pm fearing Donnelly might show up but much to her relief the home surveillance footage showed no sign of her stalker.
Infeld headed straight to the Multnomah County Circuit Court to apply for a protective order. After explaining her case, a judge granted her a permanent stalking protective order.
Infled and her fiancé Max Randolph (pictured) moved to his parents’ home in Atlanta to evade Donnelly
According to court records, police in Hillsborough, New Jersey, served Donnelly with notice of the protection orders on September 26 and October 31, 2018 and Infeld stopped hearing from him.
Infeld was able to get back to her life and her Olympic training and recorded times that would qualify her for the Tokyo 2020 games.
But 16 months later Donnelly was back.
Infeld was in her Boston hotel room in February 2020 getting ready for a 5,000-meter race that would prove she was on the path to the Olympic trials.
‘My heart was pounding because it was something that I honestly thought was done’, she said.
But Randolph called her to warn her about some disturbing Twitter and Instagram posts that Donnelly had posted.
In the social media post, he claimed that he had been her coach and husband but that the two had fallen out. He questioned her IQ, referred to their ‘marriage’ and ‘divorce’, and even accused her of owing him money.
While she was scared and confused by the post, Infeld tried to focus on her race.
‘I kept telling myself, “There is no time to think about this. Just focus on the track and the motion and the breathing”.’ And that’s exactly what she did.
Infled served Donnelly with a permanent stalking protective order which kept him quiet for 16 months until he began posting his delusions about their relationship online
Infeld went on to record a personal best of 14 minutes, 51.91 seconds which was also the second-best time by a U.S. runner and a time that would qualify for the Olympics.
She continued to block Donnelly’s accounts but in June 2020, she received a call from her security team which had been set up with through her sponsor, Nike.
‘We have some troubling news,’ the security team member informed her. ‘Your stalker … has rented a place 2 miles away from your house. And he has posted on LinkedIn that he was coming to Portland specifically to kill you.’
Infeld and Randolph agreed to immediately leave town but were unable to catch a flight to Randolph’s parent’s house in Atlanta for two days. Infeld didn’t sleep the next two nights as they switched hotel rooms trying to evade Donnelly.
‘I was paranoid the whole time,’ she said. ‘I looked out the windows, I paced, I couldn’t be still. I was really scared.’
‘I’d worked so hard to become a good runner, but in a singular moment, it felt like all of that was being taken away from me,’ Infeld explained. ‘My life was no longer in my control. I mean, I was running away from my home and I kept thinking, ‘Is this even real? Is this really happening to me?”
Portland Police interviewed Donnelly and agreed that he was a threat to Infeld but did not arrest at the time
In Atlanta, Infeld struggled to get out of bed and continue her training. She worried that she and Randolph had exposed themselves to COVID-19 during their trip and that Donnelly would follow them.
She received updates from her security team and called Portland Police every week. They told her they’d sent an officer to interview Donnelly and investigate the situation.
‘This guy’s out to get you,’ she remembered an officer telling her. ‘He knows that you have a protective order. He knows that he’s violating it. He thinks you guys were married. He knows that he threatened your life. But he said that he just wanted to scare you and he wanted you to know how much he hated you.’
But the police didn’t arrest him that day because they wanted to get his statement on the record and hadn’t read him his Miranda rights. Infeld was told they were working on an arrest warrant.
Thinking back Infeld is still angry, ‘The system is so messed up, and this is what makes me so angry,’ she said. ‘They interviewed him, they called us and made us feel so terrified. … They were like, ‘It’s a good thing you guys are gone, this guy means to do you harm.”
A few weeks later in late July, Nike requested that Infeld return to Oregon to satisfy her race requirements. She says it was implied that her pay would be cut if she did not return.
Nike told ESPN that it had not mandated what races Emily ran, and had put her safety first.
Donnelly then left Oregon and evaded the police for about a year during while Infled struggled to train due to stress
Back in Oregon but too afraid to go home, she informed police that she did not feel safe but did not get a response and spent $2,000 on an Airbnb miles from her house.
Infeld was on high alert. She avoided going on long runs alone, and carried mace and stayed close to home when she did. She disguised her location in Instagram posts and slept under multiple covers, pillows lining the sides of her body and even considered getting a gun.
Finally after three years, Multnomah County prosecutors charged Donnelly with six misdemeanor counts of having violated a stalking protection order on July 30, 2020.
Lt. Greg Pashley, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, told ESPN that Donnelly left Oregon shortly after being interviewed which made it difficult for them to take any action.
When he left the state, her security team told Infeld that they believed he was traveling the country stalking another woman and learned that the FBI was investigating the case.
But for nearly a year Infeld had no idea where in country her stalker was.
Donnelly called police while he was in Tennessee claiming that people were trying to rob him of millions of dollars which police recognized as a mental health episode
Donnelly continued to send Infeld messages but when she contacted the Portland Police about them an officer replied, ‘I’m shocked that this guy hasn’t been picked up yet on his arrest warrant. … To the best of your knowledge, is he still in Las Vegas?’
‘That just made me so mad, because I was like — after [all of] this? How would I know where he is?’ she lamented.
Not knowing where else to go, Infeld took to Instagram to share her story and expose Donnelly. ‘Just the quantity of messages from people that are like, ‘I’m going through something so similar,’ just made me so angry,’ Infeld said.
‘I felt super supported and loved, but I also felt so sad that our system is not helping any of these victims — and all of the onus is on the victim to protect themselves.’
Finally on June 3, Donnelly was arrested. Asst. Chief Richard Hickey of the Brentwood Police Department in Tennessee said ‘He actually called us. He called us because he felt like he was the victim of a scam where somebody was trying to steal his money.’
Police ran his information through the system and took him into custody when they were alerted about his July 2020 arrest warrant.
Tennessee Police say that it was immediately evident that Donnelly was suffering from a mental health episode as he continued to talk about $201 million people were trying to steal from him.
Donnelly was the connected to his arrest warrant in Portland and charged with six misdemeanor counts of having violated a stalking protection and two felonies for cyberstalking and interstate violation of a protection order
When Portland Police were asked why they had not followed up on his case in about a year, Pashley claimed that the department was overwhelmed with the protests that were sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
He admitted, ‘I know that a lot of crime victims felt as though their cases weren’t being followed up on and, in many cases, they weren’t.’
‘These are horrible situations for victims, and as police officers we want to be as responsive as we can. … At some point, there are limitations on what we can do if a person leaves our state. Throw on top of it the fact of what was going on last summer. They were completely hampered by the reality we were all faced with.’
On his way being sent back to Oregon, Donnelly was intercepted by U.S. Marshals and taken into federal custody. On June 7, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland charged Donnelly with two felonies for cyberstalking and interstate violation of a protection order.
Both charges carry a maximum of five years. As of last week, he is awaiting transfer by the U.S. Marshals to Portland.
At the rescheduled Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon on June 26 in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave Infeld did not qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics finishing in eighth place.
Infled is already back training for the next Olympic races in three years and is planning her wedding to Randolph
Friend and fellow long distance runner Kara Goucher, who has also been harassed and stalked during her career blames Donnelly for Infeld’s subpar performance.
‘As an athlete, that’s worst-case scenario,’ Goucher told ESPN. ‘[It] makes sense why she’s had so many problems [the] last couple of years, staying healthy, because she’s always in that flight or fight state of mind.’
‘It’s robbing her of the good, the prime years of her career,’ Goucher added. ‘She’s gonna someday look back and wonder if the prime of her career was stolen by this.’
Although Donnelly made the last three years of Infeld’s life a nightmare she still doesn’t want to see him go to jail. ‘I hope he can get help for his mental health. I don’t know if he will ever be back to 100 percent — I don’t know if that’s realistic — but just helping him to live life. I felt for him many times.’
While Infeld missed her chance at this year’s Olympic races, she already seems to have life back on track.
In her first two races this summer, the long-distance runner set a personal record in the 1,500-meter race and finished second in another.
She and Randolph have begun planning their wedding for the fall.