MIAMI, Fla. (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) --Authorities in Florida say they have identified and charged the so-called Pillowcase Rapist that was accused of sexually assaulting multiple women in the 1980s.
With the advances in DNA technology, Robert Koehler, 62, has been charged in six sexual assault cases that investigators say were carried out with "diabolical precision," according to a Broward County Sheriff's Office (BSO) news release.
"BSO Cold Case Unit detectives worked with Broward State Attorney's Office prosecutors to bring charges against Koehler in a total of six sexual assault cases," BSO said, though it did not detail the specific charges he faces.
"On at least eight occasions in 1984 and 1985, detectives believe Koehler snuck into homes in Broward County late at night or in the wee hours of the morning through unlocked doors and attacked his victims while they slept or prepared for bed," the release said.
The suspect allegedly covered his victims' heads or his own, sometimes with pillowcases, and made threats to kill the women or their families before assaulting and robbing them, the release said.
Koehler is already in custody in neighboring Miami-Dade County on separate armed sexual battery charges related to a 1983 rape, to which he has pleaded not guilty. He was arrested on those charges in January 2020, CNN previously reported. Once the Miami-Dade case is adjudicated, Koehler will be brought to Broward County to face the additional charges, BSO said.
The Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office, which is representing Koehler, said Wednesday it had no comment on his case.
Shortly after his 2020 arrest, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office announced DNA analysis used to charge him in the 1983 assault also matched DNA samples collected in several other assaults believed to have been committed by the Pillowcase Rapist.
How DNA analysis led to a breakthrough
For decades, assaults believed to have been tied to the Pillowcase Rapist went cold as investigators got no significant leads, Cold Case Unit Sergeant Kami Floyd said in a video released by BSO.
In 2019, Floyd began sifting through thousands of sexual assault cases from the 1980s and narrowed down a handful of suspected Pillowcase Rapist cases.
"At the time (of the assaults), all we had was blood typing," Floyd said in the video. "With this new technology that we have, we were able to retest the specimens and get a full DNA profile of our suspect."
After Koehler was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Broward County investigators obtained a new DNA swab from him that matched the original specimens from several of the suspected Pillowcase Rapist cases, Floyd said.
"From the DNA that we were able to pull from our evidence, with 100 percent certainty Robert Koehler's DNA matches the DNA from every one of our victims," Floyd said. "Every single one of these women, I can't imagine what they went through in the initial instance. But having to relive it this many years later, I'm amazed at their ability to recall, their ability to speak freely about it and so detailed."
DNA analysis also led investigators to Koehler in the Miami-Dade case he is currently in custody for.
A "key breakthrough" occurred after Koehler's son was arrested in an unrelated case, CNN previously reported. His son's DNA was similar enough to the Pillowcase Rapist's that investigators believed the unknown attacker was his father. After arresting Koehler in 2020, police obtained a search warrant that allowed them to get a swab of his DNA to confirm the match, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said at the time.
Broward County authorities believe there may be more victims unknown to law enforcement and encouraged anyone with information to reach out to the BSO Cold Case Unit or the Broward Crime Stoppers tipline.
"Based on the number of similar cases that occurred in South Florida in the 1980s and gaps in the reported attacks, detectives and victims believe there may be more victims of the 'Pillowcase Rapist' who have yet to come forward," the BSO video said.
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