Robert Koehler is accused of being the infamous “pillowcase rapist” who attacked at least 44 women in South Florida in the 1980s, according to the Miami Herald. His victims were mostly young career women, whose occupations ranged from flight attendant to health spa instructor.
Over the years, authorities launched a major task force to identify the terrifying rapist and released a sketch from a victim who caught a glimpse of his face, but they came up short – until now.
The suspect’s full name is Robert Eugene Koehler. A 1986 article in The Associated Press described how the rapist’s first known attack came in 1981, on a 24-year old secretary, and indicated the pillowcase rapist “attacked young career women, usually entering houses or apartments through unlocked doors or windows and using a knife to terrify them into submission.”
Sometimes, the rapist blindfolded the women with a pillowcase. Old newspaper articles indicate that Koehler worked as a cable installer, at a family deli, and that he once told police his father-in-law was a cop.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Rapist Was Active in the 1980s & Attacked a Variety of Young Career Women
The Miami Herald reported on January 20, 2020 that authorities had made the big arrest.
Citing law-enforcement sources, the newspaper identified the suspect as 60-year-old Robert Eugene Koehler, of Palm Bay. The newspaper reported that the arrest came on Saturday, January 18, 2020 and that Koehler is being held in the Brevard County Jail. Brevard County Jail records confirmed that Koehler was arrested on that date and is being held on an out-of-county warrant.
The Herald indicated that the rapist’s victims included a “schoolteacher, nurse, airline flight attendant, artist, model, health spa instructor, insurance executive, publicist and student.”
There was once a task force to find the pillowcase rapist, but it was disbanded in 1987, according to The Herald. The rapist would use a “towel or shirt to hide his identity,” while breaking into people’s homes to attack them, The Herald reported.
According to the old AP story, the pillowcase rapist’s final attack victimized a “frail, half-blind 82-year-old widow after breaking into her home.” She woke up to see him by her bed with “a pillowcase wrapped around his head with only his eyes showing.”
She was raped but chased him out of the house with a dish towel rack, AP reports.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described the pillowcase rapist’s crimes in a 1986 article.
One of the victims described how she used to sleep with the windows open but one night she woke up to “the sound of a gruff whisper and the pressure of a knife against her arm.”
That article stated that the rapist would wear a “hood and covers his victims’ heads with a pillow or pillowcase.”
However, one time, a victim got a glimpse of the man’s face. She woke up at 12:45 a.m. to find him standing by her bedroom window. She screamed and he “had no time to cover his face,” although he placed a pillow over hers. She told him she couldn’t see because she didn’t have her glasses on,” the AJC reported.
But, even though she was nearsighted, she was able to “catch glimpses” of the man who raped her and tied her up. That led to the only description of the rapist. He was described as a “pretty average-looking man, a white Anglo-American in his mid 20s to early 30s. Athletic build. Clean and neat. Fair, but suntanned. Mustache and brown, wavy hair,” according to the newspaper. Five of his rapes came in Miami’s Alisian Lakes Apartments.
2. Koehler Is a Registered Sex Offender for a Palm Beach Sexual Battery Offense
Robert Eugene Koehler is a registered sex offender, according to State of Florida records. His date of birth is listed as October 3, 1958.
His status is listed as “released – subject to registration.” He is 6 foot 1 inches tall and 235 pounds. He had last provided his address to the state in 2018, and it was listed as being in the 700 block of Rostock Circle, in Palm Bay, Florida, in Brevard County. He was listed as having multiple vehicles registered in his name, including motorcycles.
His convicted sex offense is a case dating to 1991 from Palm Beach, Florida. It’s listed as “SEX BAT/INJ NOT LIKELY; F.S. 794.011(5) (PRINCIPAL).” That stands for sexual battery. The 1991 date is the adjudication date for the offense.
3. Robert Eugene Koehler Was Working as a Cable Installer When the Palm Beach Rape Occurred
Old newspaper stories describe the sexual offense that landed Robert Koehler on the Florida sex offender registry list.
According to a 1990 article in the Palm Beach Daily News, Robert Eugene Koehler was 31 years old when he was accused of raping a Palm Beach woman in her apartment on Chilean Avenue.
He was working as a cable installer at the time. The victim called 911 at 3:30 a.m. to report the rape. Police searched the area and stopped a car driven by Koehler for making an illegal left turn. They let him go after ticketing him because they didn’t have a description yet of the rapist.
However, after investigating further, they later brought him in for questioning, the article states.
According to an article in the New York Daily News in 1991, Koehler alleged that the victim was drunk when they met at 3 a.m. on a Palm Beach street and claimed they “later had sex voluntarily in her apartment.”
But the woman said she was raped. He gave police two stories, the article says, indicating that the first time “he told cops that he’d been cruising aimlessly around and did not meet anyone except a cop who gave him a ticket for making an illegal turn.”
However, the detective confronted him with hair samples, which is when he shifted his story, saying he spotted a woman “holding a cat” and dressed only in a white nightshirt with “Alligator Joe’s” written on the back. He claimed she was staggering around, so he helped her back to his apartment, where she had sex with him.
The woman’s story was radically different – and it fits the pillowcase rapist’s MO. She said she returned to her apartment after a dinner party and, sometime after 1:30 a.m., was “awakened by a stranger in her bedroom.” She said the man warned her to be still, and then “placed a pillow over her head and raped her. He got up and left without her ever seeing his face.”
She claimed she left her front door unlocked because her cat had gotten outside and she wanted to let the animal back in.
That article says Koehler was “working in his family’s Palm Beach deli” when police started looking for him and told authorities “I got a father-in-law who is a police officer.”
The newspaper compared the case to the police handling of accusations against William Kennedy Smith of the Kennedy dynasty and quoted Koehler as saying, “I wish I had the Kennedy name. This thing might have happened differently. I guess I’m supposed to be mad, but that’s the way the system works, right? People use their privileges.”
4. The Pillowcase Rapist Left Behind Red Underwear & Other Items at One Scene
A 1986 article in the Fort Lauderdale News described how the pillowcase rapist’s behavior was becoming “increasingly more bizarre.”
His first victims were all “attractive young career women who live alone in upper middle-class apartment complexes. He entered through unlocked doors or windows.”
However, in later attacks, the victims were older women living in homes.
At the home of one victim, he “left behind a pair of women’s red bikini underwear, a pair of little girl’s ruffled red panties, a cream-colored woman’s undershirt, and a navy blue leather purse,” the newspaper reported.
Authorities speculated at that time that the items came from other victims.
5. The Pillowcase Rapist Had a Rare Blood Type But Some Cops Thought There Was More Than One Rapist Involved
A 1987 article in The Orlando Sentinel said that a task force was created to investigate the pillowcase rapist but it came up with “nothing on the man suspected of breaking through screen doors and covering his victim’s head with a pillowcase.”
At that time, a memo by the head of the detective bureau suggested that the rapes might have been committed by multiple people. The memo claims that the Pillowcase Rapist might not really exist.
The rapist had not struck since 1986, according to that article, and the link was the suspect’s rare blood type, O, which is only found in 1 percent of the population, The Sentinel reported at the time.
The attacks took place from Deerfield Beach to south Dade County.
READ NEXT: How Many People Did Aaron Hernandez Kill?