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'No one should have to go through this' | Women sue massage company for ignoring sexual assault claim

Months after one woman claimed a massage therapist sexually assaulted her, another woman came forward with a similar claim.

DENVER — Nine months after she says a massage therapist sexually assaulted her inside a Massage Heights in Loveland, Melissa received a phone call from a member of the Fort Collins Police Department.

The exchange was recorded on a body camera. Prosecutors, the detective told Melissa, were finally ready to do what they had elected not to do shortly after the alleged assault in February 2022. The suspect would be charged. 

“I’m so sorry it took this long,” the detective said. “I am so appreciative you stuck with this.”

“Oh thank, God,” Melissa replied, fighting through tears. “That’s amazing.” 

Melissa’s story, as outlined in a lawsuit and told to 9NEWS for the first time, is a lesson in the challenges faced by victims who struggle to get a system to believe them.

Because she’s a victim of alleged sexual assault, 9NEWS has chosen not to use her full name.

She did everything she was supposed to do. She called 911 shortly after leaving the business. She outlined her allegations during a formal interview. And yet, months after she reported a therapist named Michael had sexually assaulted her inside a massage room, that therapist was back working at Massage Heights.

In June – less than four months after Melissa reported the assault – another woman called police alleging a therapist named Michael had assaulted her at Massage Heights in Loveland.

When Ashley learned of Melissa’s allegations, she was livid. 

“It felt like [Massage Heights] was serving me up on a platter to him. I was put in a room with a lion,” she told 9NEWS. “I had no idea.”

Michael – Michael Murray – is now dead. Police said he killed himself weeks after prosecutors charged him with sexually assaulting both Melissa and Ashley.  Once police went public with the case late last year, more potential victims of his came forward.

Credit: 9NEWS

Melissa and Ashley don’t blame police. They do blame the company that hired and ultimately kept Murray as an employee.

Their lawsuit – filed in May in Larimer County – says Massage Heights (run in Colorado by Finding Serenity 2, LLC) is negligent. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment. Filings in court suggest the company will vigorously fight the claims.

Melissa and Ashley want you to know their story -- if only, they say, to encourage more victims to come forward and to have more people believe those victims.

“There are too many of us,” Melissa said. “If talking about it will make one less person a victim, I will talk about it until I can’t talk anymore.”

Melissa, a mother of four young children, had been a big fan of massages at the Massage Heights.

“When you’re not working and you’re a stay-at-home mom, getting out of the house and having some time to yourself is really important,” she said. “I went about every three weeks or so.”

“Did you trust that place?” 9NEWS asked.

“Yeah. I did,” she replied.

Minutes into the massage in February 2022, she knew something was very off.

“In your mind you’re thinking, ‘Is this really happening?'” she said. “You just lie there, and you’re in complete shock. You would think you’re gung ho enough to jump off the table and put a stop to it, but you just lay there and think what the F is happening?”

As soon as she left, she called her husband. 

“And I also called police,” she said.

“I need to call and report a sexual assault,” she told the 911 operator.

Where did it occur?

“Massage Heights,” Melissa replied. “This man should not be massaging anyone else.”

Days later, Fort Collins Police interviewed Murray.

“Once I heard her side of the story, it sounded like that’s what she wanted to happen and she didn’t get her way. So, she’s either embarrassed or mad about it,” Murray told a male detective.

Within a month, the case disappeared.

“Lack of probable cause,” says a police report reviewed by 9NEWS.

RELATED: Massage therapist accused of inappropriate sexual contact

Her lawsuit suggests Massage Heights used an outside company to do its own investigation. The company, according to the lawsuit, told clients he was on a “leave of absence.”

The lawsuit adds, “A thorough and accurate investigation was not done.”

On June 6, 2022, the lawsuit claims Massage Heights texted Ashley to tell her, “Michael is back! Let us know if you would like to get your next massage booked with him!”

Ten days later, Ashley left Massage Heights and called police.

“It’s hard not to get really angry to know that they had been made aware of at least one previous incident,” Ashley said.

Credit: 9NEWS

This time, a female detective interviewed Murray.

“How are we at the point where we have two people saying this? Help me understand this,” the detective said.

Murray agreed to talk to police multiple times. He never admitted to assaulting anyone.

But the detective was persistent. And, in November, she visited Melissa's home.

Melissa was no longer alone. There was another victim.

“I thought there was no way this could be denied now,” she told 9NEWS.

But she was also really upset.

“I was really mad that he had done this again and that it had taken another person to come forward for something to be done about it,” she said.

She also feels some regret.

“I feel like if I had done more that wouldn’t have happened to [Ashley]. Maybe I gave up too quickly,” she said.

Ashley, for her part, doesn’t blame Melissa in the slightest.

“She was brave enough to come forward,” Ashley said.

9NEWS reached out to Massage Heights and its franchise owner for comment. A spokesperson replied Wednesday, “Massage Heights corporate has decided to not provide comment here.”

In court filings, attorneys for Massage Heights and its local LLC deny many of the claims outlined in the lawsuit.

Dan Lipman, a Denver attorney with Parker Lipman LLP who represents Melissa, told 9NEWS, “The women who have been sexually assaulted at Massage Heights are incredibly brave. They are sharing the details of horrific acts that occurred to them to hold Massage Heights accountable. These women stand up, they speak up, and because of them this can be prevented from happening to other people.”

Ashley said she hopes her willingness to come forward with Melissa encourages other victims to tell their stories.

“It’s not surprising that [sex assault] is underreported. It’s infuriating that everyone wasn’t up in arms," she said.

“If this was your friend, if this was your sister, if this was your daughter who came forward, would you just say the police didn’t do anything so neither will we?” she said.

Melissa was more blunt.

“No one should have to go through this,” she said.

For more information on reporting a sexual assault: 



About the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline | RAINN

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