A woman who accused actor and director Nate Parker of rape died four years ago at the age of 30, according to news reports out Tuesday.
Her older brother told Variety in an interview that she committed suicide in 2012 by overdosing on sleeping pills. The magazine’s website identified the man only as “Johnny,” but did not provide his last name, nor did they name the woman because of the case. Parker was acquitted after a trial in 2001, although questions about the case have begun to persist as the October release of his upcoming film Birth of a Nation draws closer.
“She became detached from reality,” the brother said. “The progression was very quick and she took her life.”
In 1999, Parker and another student were charged with raping the woman while they were students at Penn State University. At the time of the allegation, he said that he had consensual sex with her. But prosecutors claimed in court documents connected with the case that she was raped while unconscious.
He was not disciplined beyond being suspended from the school’s wrestling team and wound up transferring to a college in Oklahoma. Despite Parker’s acquittal, the other student, who was Parker’s roommate, was convicted and served six months in prison, but his sentence was vacated upon appeal.
Parker, 36, spoke with Variety last week about the accusation:
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life,” Parker said. “It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is…I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
However the alleged victim’s brother maintains that the incident drove his sister into a downward spiral.
“If I were to look back at her very short life and point to one moment where I think she changed as a person, it was obviously that point,” he said. “The trial was pretty tough for her.”
“He may have litigated out of any kind of situation,” he added. “My position is he got off on a technicality.”
Parker’s accuser wound up leaving Penn State and was awarded a $17,500 settlement. According to her brother, she tried to move on with her life, moving around, holding various jobs and even having a son. “That brought her a good bit of happiness. I think the ghosts continued to haunt her.”
But he also told Variety that if the accusation had taken place today, things might have gone differently.
“I think by today’s legal standards, a lot has changed with regards to universities and the laws in sexual assault,” he said. “I feel certain if this were to happen in 2016, the outcome would be different than it was. Courts are a lot stricter about this kind of things. You don’t touch someone who is so intoxicated–period.”
Other members of her family declined to speak publicly about the case, Variety said.
Fox Searchlight, which is distributing Birth of a Nation released a statement regarding the resurfacing of the rape allegations against Parker:
“Fox Searchlight is aware of the incident that occurred while Nate Parker was at Penn State. We also know that he was found innocent and cleared of all charges. We stand behind Nate and are proud to help bring this important and powerful story to the screen,” the statement said.