DNA cracks 1980 cold case: Gene analysis leads to arrest of Florida’s ‘Pillowcase rapist’

screenshot the ‘pillowcase rapist’ suspect eluded capture for decades then police got his son’s dna
Robert Eugene Koehler during his first court appearance. Image: Tim Shortt/Florida Today

Authorities believe a Florida man arrested last weekend is the so-called Pillowcase Rapist and is responsible for a string of notorious South Florida assaults that took place in the 1980s, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Robert Eugene Koehler was arrested in Palm Bay, Florida, after new DNA analysis allegedly tied him to a rape in Miami in December 1983, Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court documents show.

But that DNA also matched samples from a number of cases between 1981 to 1986 left by a suspect who became known as the Pillowcase Rapist, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a news conference.

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The “key breakthrough” came when Koehler’s son was recently arrested in an unrelated domestic violence case, Fernandez Rundle said. His DNA was similar enough to the Pillowcase Rapist’s that investigators believed the unknown assailant was his father.

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An affidavit says police watching Koehler’s home followed him to a public area “where DNA swabs were obtained from objects he had touched.” The samples were analyzed, leading to probable cause for his arrest, the affidavit says.

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