The trial of Robert Eugene Koehler, accused of attacking and raping at least 45 women in their homes in the 80s in the US state of Florida, has concluded. Koehler’s defense during the hearings was mind-blowing. Here are all the details…
For years, women living in the southern US state of Florida slept with one eye open, feeling the need to lock the doors of their homes not once but three times.
They all shared a common fear: An unknown person would enter their homes, attack them with a knife and rape them. The assailant, who covered either his own face or his victim’s face with a cloth, became publicly known as the “Pillowcase Rapist”.
Extensive manhunts were organized for the assailant, who was suspected of raping at least 45 women in the 1980s. Authorities assigned 50 police detectives to investigate the case.
Sketches drawn from the descriptions of the women who were attacked were posted on streets across Florida. A sculptor was even hired to create a bust of the attacker.
The investigation went on for years, with police investigating more than 1,000 reports. But all efforts proved fruitless and the task force set up to catch the attacker ended its work in 1987.
CAPTURED AFTER MORE THAN 30 YEARS
Then, on January 22, 2020, something happened that no one expected. Police officials announced that a suspect had been tracked down in connection with the attacks in the 1980s.
In a statement, the suspect was identified as Robert Eugene Koehler, a convicted sex offender. Police announced that Koehler had been taken into custody at his home in Palm Bay the previous weekend.
Koehler, now 63, was indicted on two counts of sexual battery for stabbing and raping a 25-year-old woman in her Miami-Dade home on December 28, 1983.
Miami-Dade Attorney General Katherine Fernandez Rundle stated at a press conference following the police announcement that they were able to link Koehler to 24 separate sexual assaults that occurred during the same period thanks to the DNA sample they took.
SON ARRESTED, DNA TEST REVEALS FATHER
According to the prosecutor, the key incident that led law enforcement to Koehler more than 30 years later happened in 2019.
At that time, Koehler’s son was arrested on charges of domestic violence.
When the police uploaded a DNA sample from Koehler’s son to a database of genetic data on criminals, they were a little surprised. It turned out that the suspect was closely related to an unidentified suspect in a rape case from the 1980s.
[su_quote]”This family connection was the breaking point for us. It was the missing piece of the puzzle.”[/su_quote]
HE WAS BUILDING A DUNGEON IN HIS HOUSE
Prosecutor Laura Adams, who appeared with Rundle in front of the press, said that police investigated Baba Koehler’s home and found several safes containing women’s jewelry and a metal nail file in a protective case.
Adams added that Koehler, who is believed to have taken these items as souvenirs from his victims, was building a dungeon in the basement of his home.
“When we saw this, we were very concerned, ‘If we don’t take this man into custody now, he could do much worse things to other women,'” Adams said.
Authorities said Koehler stalked his victims in a planned pattern between May 1981 and February 1986. Most of those attacked were young women, but among them was an 82-year-old man.
“He literally terrorized the women of South Florida,” Rundle said.
HE GOT AWAY WITH IT THE FIRST TIME
In fact, Koehler may have been caught before. He had been convicted of sexual battery in Palm Beach County for an incident in 1991 and was included on a list of such offenders.
But Koehler’s data was not added to the system because DNA was not collected from offenders at the time. “That’s how he managed to stay hidden all these years,” Rundle said.
DNA ON THE DOOR HANDLE OF THE GROCERY STORE LED TO HIS ARREST
When his son’s arrest in 2019 revealed the family connection, police put Koehler under surveillance.
Koehler went grocery shopping one day, giving detectives the opportunity they were looking for. Initial analysis of DNA samples taken from the door handle of the grocery store and the shopping cart partially matched samples from the 1983 crime scene. This allowed the police to obtain a warrant for Koehler’s arrest.
The large amount of DNA taken during the detention process also confirmed that Koehler was the perpetrator of 24 other attacks in the 1980s.
[su_quote]”I hope that the victims of these horrible crimes will finally get some measure of justice and peace,” Rundle said, adding that Koehler’s arrest after all these years shows that the police have never forgotten the attacks of the 1980s and have never given up.[/su_quote]
JURY SAYS “GUILTY”
Rundle’s wish came true last Wednesday. Koehler, whose trial in Miami-Dade County was finally completed, was found guilty of the 1983 attack.
The New York Times quoted WPLG, one of Miami’s local television stations, as saying Koehler’s defense during the hearings was that corrupt cops threatened, conspired and coerced him into committing the crime.
Koehler also claimed that a policeman put a gun to his temple and threatened him, saying, “You will never tell anyone about this.”
“This finally closes the chapter on the horrors that women in South Florida have endured for a long, long time,” prosecutor Rundle said after the jury returned a guilty verdict after three hours of deliberations.
TRIALS WILL CONTINUE
Koehler, who faces the possibility of life in prison, is being tried in a similar case in the neighboring county of Broward. Broward State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Paula McMahon said Koehler has been charged in six cases there and that they will request his transfer once the Miami-Dade proceedings are completed.
One of the victims in Broward said she was attacked a little after midnight on June 23, 1984, and Koehler, who approached her from behind and held a knife to her throat, told her, “If you see my face, it’s over.”
“He pulled me out of my bed, attacked and raped me,” another victim said, according to court documents, adding that she was asleep in bed with her 5-year-old daughter at the time of the attack.
sources used: The New York Times’ın “‘Pillowcase Rapist,’ Who Terrorized Florida in the 1980s, Has Been Caught, Officials Say
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