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Florida’s Alleged ‘Pillowcase Rapist’ Victims Recount Terror — And Their Hopes For Justice

Following the arrest of Robert Koehler, who police allege was the notorious "Pillowcase Rapist" in Florida in the 1980s, some of the victims of the attacks spoke out about the horrors of their experiences and their desire for justice.

By Jill Sederstrom
A police handout of Robert Koehler

“He didn’t kill me, but he did kill me,” a suspected victim of Florida’s “Pillowcase Rapist” said, decades after she was brutally raped in her home.

The woman — identified by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office simply as Catherine — never believed there would be justice for the man who had so callously ripped away the life she’d once known, but on Tuesday the sheriff’s office announced it had linked six sexual assault cold cases to Robert Koehler, a man suspected of being Florida’s prolific “Pillowcase Rapist.”

Investigators believe the Pillowcase Rapist — who earned the chilling moniker because of his tendency to place a pillowcase over his own face or that of his victims — may be responsible for somewhere between 40 to 45 unsolved rapes in Broward and Miami Dade Counties in the 1980s, although to date Koehler has only been charged with six counts in Broward County and one case in Miami Dade County, according to The Associated Press.

For Catherine and other victims who spoke out in a video produced by the sheriff’s office, the arrest has finally brought some measure of closure.

“I was very floored,” Catherine said of the arrest. “I didn’t think for a second that that evidence would still be there. 'Cause that evidence was me, and tossing out that evidence is like tossing out garbage, you know."

"I know that they want to catch criminals and all that stuff, but it made me feel like it was worth it, and, to a degree, that my life could make a difference and all these years of going through terrible stuff could make a difference," she added.

Sgt. Kami Floyd, who works in criminal investigations, decided to pore through boxes of evidence in 2019 after stumbling across a news article describing approximately 40 to 45 unsolved rape cases in the area.

“I didn’t have dates. I didn’t have victim names,” Floyd said. “I had nothing to work off. About 500 boxes I looked through and each box contained hundreds of cases and each case had to be read.”

While searching, Floyd stumbled upon one case from June of 1984 that she thought could be linked to the Pillowcase Rapist after discovering the rapist had attacked a woman wearing a pillowcase on his face, brutally raping her at knifepoint.

With the help of the crime lab, she was able to identify a list of eight other possible victims of the same perpetrator.

When Miami-Dade announced they had arrested Koehler for a sex crime in that county in 2020, she got a search warrant for Koehler’s DNA and was able to match it to the unsolved cases in Broward County.

Floyd said the rapist typically targeted women in the same way.

“The victim was usually single, alone and he used a sharp instrument, covered her face,” she explained before adding that the perpetrator regularly threatened his victims, chose an item from their homes with which to restrain them and sexually battered them before stealing money and fleeing.

“He did say to me, ‘I’ve been following you.’ And I tried to talk to him a little bit, you know, and to keep him calm,” another victim identified as Carolyn said in the video produced by the sheriff’s office. “I didn’t want to get a knife in my throat.”

Catherine remembered how her attacker when through her wallet after the attack.

“He knew where I lived. He knew my name. I didn’t know him," she said of the terror she felt later.

The attacks left many of the women feeling terrified and alone.

“You get robbed or somebody steals your car, you tell everybody, ‘Oh my gosh, I got robbed today. I got mugged. Somebody stole my purse.’ But when you get raped, you don’t want to tell anybody,” an unidentified woman said.

Now, decades later, the women are finally getting the justice they deserve.

“He deserves to be put away, never come out,” Carolyn said. “Why should he walk around?”

The women are now hoping Koehler’s arrest inspires other victims to come forward.

“Their voice is important and it’s important to realize, you know, after so many years, you can still get justice,” another unidentified victim said.

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