Accused 1980's "pillowcase rapist" convicted in one of the attacks
A man suspected of being the "pillowcase rapist" in connection with a string of South Florida rapes back in the 1980s was convicted Wednesday in one of the attacks.
Miami-Dade County jurors found Robert Koehler, 63, guilty of sexual battery, kidnapping and burglary. He faces up to life in prison at sentencing March 17. He is also charged in six more attacks in neighboring Broward County.
The Miami-Dade case focused on a single victim, a then-25-year-old woman who was attacked in December 1983.
Authorities say the "pillowcase rapist" terrified his victims by breaking into their homes at night. The attacker used a pillowcase or other fabric to cover his face - or the face of his victims - before assaulting them, tying them up and stealing items from their homes.
The assaults attracted extensive media attention in South Florida and prompted the creation of a task force to investigate the sex crimes. Authorities said the trail eventually turned cold until 2020, when a DNA hit for one of Koehler's relatives led police to the man.
Koehler, sitting in a wheelchair, showed no emotion as the court clerk read the jury's verdict, CBS Miami reported.
A woman who said she was sexually assaulted by the "pillowcase rapist" also took the stand, the station reported. She described how she tried to get him out of her home.
"Because I knew if I didn't get him out of the house, my husband had just left for work, I would have been there all night. So I just kept saying you got to leave, he carries a gun, he's on his way here, he just finished work at eight, he's going to kill you. He carries a gun, you gotta leave, you gotta leave, you gotta leave," she told the jury.
During the trial, prosecutors described a brutal sexual assault inside the victim's home.
"The thrill," the prosecutor said. "The power that this man must have derived from assaulting an innocent woman. Home. Just out of the shower. Completely vulnerable."
The defense said there was not enough evidence in the case. During the trial, Koehler claimed he was kidnapped and tortured by a group of police officers who he said planted his DNA on the woman.
"Today's jury verdict finding Robert Koehler guilty of sexual battery, kidnapping and burglary, finally closes the book on a terror that gripped the women of South Florida for far, far too long," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement Wednesday. "With a DNA trail linking Koehler to at least 25 sexual batteries in Miami-Dade alone, the work of two generations of police officers and forensic scientists seems to have come to a just and final end. This community owes a debt of gratitude to the courage of our victim who had to look this man in the eye years after her own sexual assault and still had the strength to testify against him."