The state Friday rested its case against the man they claim is the “pillowcase rapist,” a man who terrorized South Florida in the early 1980s, committing dozens of rapes of women, often using a pillowcase or other bed linens to cover their faces so they could not identify him.
But he could not cover up the DNA left behind at several of the scenes.
A Miami-Dade Police DNA analyst testified DNA collected from a 1983 rape victim matches that of 63-year-old Robert Koehler, who was arrested in January 2020.
After hearing the odds of someone other than Koehler being the source of that DNA was nearly 90-billion-to-one — later set at 16.55 octillion to one through further testing — jurors were told the state had rested and they were to return Monday morning.
The defense has said Koehler will testify in his own defense, as they try to argue a police conspiracy was afoot to peg Koehler as the “pillowcase rapist.” If he does testify, the state can present evidence of his 1991 conviction for a rape in Pam Beach County.
And in another risky move, it is the defense — not the state — that is introducing evidence of his purported connection to other rapes, even though he is only charged with the one in Miami-Dade County.
It was such an unconventional move, Judge Daryl Trawick questioned Koehler outside the jury’s presence Friday about whether he agreed with his defense team’s strategy. He said he did.
If convicted in this case, he faces life in prison.
He is charged with six more rapes in Broward County, which connected him to DNA from six cold cases there after he was arrested for the Miami-Dade case.
Police have said the “pillowcase rapist” may be responsible for 44 rapes in Miami-Dade and Broward in the early 1980s.
Koehler was identified as a suspect after his son’s DNA was put into a criminal database after his arrest on domestic violence charges. It was so similar to the unknown source of the “pillowcase rapist” DNA that investigators honed in on the father.
They followed him to a Walmart in Palm Bay, Brevard County, where he was living, and recovered a discarded disinfectant wipe he used on a shopping cart handle — matching his DNA to several rape scenes.
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