The news of someone stalking an Olympian isn’t something you hear every day. However, that’s exactly what happened to Emily Infeld, a top distance runner and Olympian. Overnight, she received what seemed like an innocuous message on social media, and her life was never the same again.
We’re taking a look at how the story developed over time, and if/how it’s been resolved. We’re also asking experts their thoughts on the situation, and what others can do to protect themselves.
How It Started
Back in April 2018, Emily Infeld received about a dozen messages from a man named Craig Donnelly. Donnelly was giving Infeld advice on how to recover an injured foot, claiming he was a USA Track and Field Coach.
Even though the messages kept coming in, Infeld did her best to ignore them, all while contacting her agent, coach, and the USATF. However, after a while, Emily also started receiving calls and voicemails from Donnelly.
In a particularly disturbing message, Infeld remembers Donnelly said: “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.”
It’s easy to imagine that Stalkers and fixated individuals aren’t thinking clearly or lack foresight but that underestimation is very dangerous. Stalkers will often create circumstances where their victim should feel indebted to them; in this case, Donnelly in his mind believed Ms Infeld should be grateful for his free advice despite that it was unsolicited and unwanted. — Karen Connell, CEO at Hunter Protection
In the meantime, Infeld was also receiving packages from Donnelly, which meant he knew her address. It was official: Donnelly was stalking an Olympian, and he had some pretty disturbing ideas.
Two months after receiving the packages, Infeld took out a permanent stalking protective order. Following the order, she wouldn’t hear from Donnelly for 16 months.
Craig Donnelly was a runner himself, and former friends say he was funny and friendly during his time at Westmont College. However, one summer, while running alone on a treadmill, Donnelly passed out and fell, cutting his calf.
After that, he dropped out of college, got married, and seemingly led a normal life. But one night, in 2016, he was running alone, he had fallen backward, hitting the ground during an epileptic episode. His family started a GoFundMe campaign while Donnelly was in recovery and rehabilitating.
Donnelly’s former teammate recalls visiting him after his stay at the hospital, saying he looked different. According to her, he also couldn’t process complicated emotions and lacked a feeling of common sense.
Donnelly’s medical records revealed that he had injuries in his bilateral frontal lobes and the cerebellum. There is some speculation that even prior to the incident, Donnelly was exhibiting narcissistic behavior. That, paired with the brain injury, turned into a dangerous pathology.
In June 2020, while stalking an Olympian, Donnelly had applied to rent a room in Portland. The room was actually a dozen or so miles away from Infeld’s home. Donnelly had issues with other tenants, and eventually, the landlord told him that he would have to move out. The landlord would later receive threatening messages from Donnelly and would be the one to report him.
In fact, after receiving a comprehensive background check on Donnelly, the landlord said he “Put two and two together.” He immediately notified Nike, Infeld’s sponsor, and they contacted the security company protecting Infeld.
After being evicted, Donnelly found a place to stay, which was just two miles away from Infeld’s home. The security company asked her to leave town immediately, which she did.
According to Infeld, her life had changed forever after that. She said that she would stay in bed for hours, and would occasionally receive updates from police. However, they did little to reassure her, and would say that it’s good she skipped town because “This guy was out to get you.”
Stalking is a crime like no other in that the victimization has no definite beginning and no definite end. The average stalking case lasts 1.8 years which means the victim is constantly re-traumatized without any end to the trauma, at least not one the victim can trust. Unfortunately, the effects of stalking do not just end when the perpetrator leaves the victim alone, and there is often lifelong and damaging impacts on a victim’s mental health. The victims may become hypersensitive, hyper-vigilant, and live on adrenaline, always watching behind them and doing 360-degree risk assessments of every situation, wondering whether the stalking is watching them. — Dr. Mary Beth Wilkas Janke
Author, Psychology Professor, and Self-Esteem Mentor
A month after the incident, police charged Donnelly with six counts of having violated a stalking protection order. Unfortunately, right after that, Donnelly would skip town, and neither the police nor the security firm could determine his whereabouts.
Infeld received an update saying that the security company believes Donnelly is traveling the country. Apart from stalking an Olympian, the company said that he might also be stalking another woman. Luckily, there was a turn in the case when police picked up Connelly after he called them, claiming he was a victim of a scam.
After taking him into federal custody, Donnelly received two felony charges for interstate violation of a protection order and cyberstalking. Both carry a maximum five-year sentence.
Emily’s Life Now
The story of someone stalking an Olympian, or any other high-profile person, has since been heard around the globe. Infeld says that the past three years have left a mark on her, and her life will never be the same again.
Now, she’s very careful about what she posts on social media, ensuring to never reveal her location. She also doesn’t receive mail at her apartment, and the Olympian says she isn’t speaking to some of her close friends who didn’t believe the story.
Social media is, of course, a fixated individual’s dream and why security teams need to reimagine their protection strategies beyond the physical being of a person and the mechanics of an alarm. Monitoring the social media accounts for people who might be the target of stalkers is important as early detection and disengagement of bad actors can be the difference between life and death. — Karen Connell, CEO at Hunter Protection
With Donnelly now in custody, Infeld says she feels much freer and less anxious. She’s working currently with the FBI on the case against Donnelly. However, says she wouldn’t like to see him in jail. In fact, the runner hopes he can get some mental health help he requires.
Currently, Infeld’s working toward qualifying for the Summer Olympics, and has plans to marry her fiancé in the Fall.