During the early 1980s, the “Pillowcase Rapist” terrorized the South Florida community, breaking into the apartment or town homes of dozens of women and raping them at knifepoint.
But now — decades later — authorities have arrested a possible suspect in the brutal attacks, according to The Miami Herald.
Robert Koehler appeared in court Tuesday, January 22 after investigators were able to link him to a 1983 rape in Miami-Dade County through DNA evidence collected at the scene, local station WESH reports.
The DNA was entered into a database but investigators would not get a lead until Koehler’s son’s DNA was put into the system in connection with another case.
Through that connection, investigators were able to identify Koehler as a suspect and followed him to collect items he had touched in public areas to gather his DNA to compare it to that found at the crime scene.
After a match was made, Koehler was arrested on Saturday, January 18 at his Palm Bay home. He made his first court appearance on Tuesday, where he told a judge he was “not guilty” of the 1983 attack.
The Pillowcase Rapist is believed to be responsible for more than 40 attacks on women from May 1981 to February 1986, The Miami Herald reports. He earned the moniker the “pillowcase rapist” because he often used a pillowcase or other type of fabric to shield his face or the face of his victims.
Police have said the man broke into town homes or apartments and carried out the attacks while holding his female victims at knifepoint.
The Miami-Dade Police created a task force to try to capture the elusive rapist but were never able to identify a suspect in the case and the task force was eventually disbanded in 1987, according to the paper.
Investigators — including those from the Miami-Dade police, prosecutors, and state and federal agents — took a renewed look at the case in recent years but it wasn’t until Koehler’s son’s DNA was entered into the system that authorities got the break they needed, the local paper reports.
Authorities have not yet publicly confirmed that Koehler is being considered as a suspect in the unsolved cases. Oxygen.com has reached out to the Miami-Dade Police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement but has not received a response as of press time.
Authorities have also not publicly identified Koehler’s son; however, local media outlets are reporting that Robert J. Koehler, 29, was arrested in September after his girlfriend called for help after he allegedly tried to “force himself into the residence via a rear window,” according to a police report obtained by The Miami Herald.
No formal charges were ever filed in the case against the younger Koehler.
Robert Koehler, 60, is a registered sex offender and has a record of past violence. He was convicted of rape in 1991, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Retired Miami-Dade Police detective Dave Simmons, who once spearheaded the task force to track down the rapist, told The Miami Herald he was pleased an arrest had been made.
“Thank goodness for the victims. I’d talked with most all of them over the years,” he said. “They would call periodically to check on the progress of the case. It’s good for them to have closure.”
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