MIAMI — New DNA tests have matched Robert Koehler, the suspected “Pillowcase Rapist,” to at least two dozen Miami-Dade sexual assaults from the 1980s, multiple sources tell the Miami Herald.
The revelation comes as Koehler, charged with one case so far, made a brief appearance Thursday afternoon in a Miami-Dade courtroom. A Miami-Dade judge ordered him held in jail with no bond.
Since Koehler’s arrest on Saturday, Miami-Dade prosecutors and detectives have been working around the clock trying to contact victims and test DNA evidence from the decades-old cases as they build more criminal cases against the 60-year-old.
“His DNA has been linked to numerous other sex offenses,” Miami-Dade senior prosecutor Laura Adams told a judge during Thursday afternoon’s hearing.
Police believe Koehler, last working as an electrician in Brevard County, is the notorious rapist who was blamed for at least 40 rapes in South Florida in the early 1980s. For years, the intruder sneaked into apartments and town homes, raping women at knife point while cloaking their heads with a pillowcase or other fabric.
Authorities launched a massive task force task force looking for the attacker. But a task force was disbanded in 1987, and the cases went cold.
Koehler had been convicted in an October 1990 rape in Palm Beach County that had all the hallmarks of the Pillowcase Rapist. According to an arrest report, the intruder entered an apartment in the middle of the night and raped a woman after he “place an article over her face.”
She immediately called police. Within minutes, officers stopped Koehler driving away from the neighborhood in a white Camaro. “The officer noted that the subject was extremely nervous and he was sweating profusely,” the arrest report said.
He was issued several traffic citations. A detective followed up interviewing Koehler, who then lived in Lake Worth. He at first denied ever being at the crime scene — then admitted that “he had intercourse with the victim.”
Despite the similarities with the cases years earlier in Miami-Dade and Broward, authorities in Palm Beach did not link the case to the Pillowcase Rapist. He wound up pleading guilty in 1991 to sexual battery and was put on probation.
He later violated his probation, court records show, by failing to get a psychological exam and treatment. He wound up serving 120 days in jail and was put back on probation.
Koehler was later required to report in Florida’s database of sexual offenders and predators. His DNA, however, was not in a law enforcement database — back then, convicts weren’t required to a give a genetic sample.
But Miami-Dade detectives, in recent years, revived the case by looking at publicly available DNA profiles of possible family members. That led police to identify Koehler’s son, Robert J. Koehler, whose DNA wound up in a police database because of an arrest.
Police detectives tailed Koehler in public, getting samples of DNA “from objects he touched,” according to an arrest warrant.
Koehler was arrested on Saturday at his home in Palm Bay in Brevard County.
Koehler, the father of two adult children who worked as an electrician, lived in Miami-Dade during the early 1980s, records show.
(Miami Herald staff writer Nicholas Nehamas contributed to this report.)
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