Prosecutors in Florida believe a 60-year-old man building a “dungeon” under his home is the so-called pillowcase rapist, who authorities say broke into women’s houses and concealed his face with pillows and towels in as many as 40 assaults in the state since the 1980s.
Robert Koehler was arrested on 18 January after authorities say they tied his DNA to samples collected from a 1983 case. The sample also matched DNA collected from several other cases between 1981 and 1986, according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
Authorities were able to link Koehler to at least 25 cases, although they believe there are other matches to follow, as investigators begin to dive into Koehler’s history in the state.
He was charged with two counts of sexual battery with a deadly weapon and remains in custody without bond, according to Brevard County Sheriff’s Office records.
Koehler’s son Robert, 29, was arrested last year on charges of attempted burglary, domestic violence assault and criminal mischief. Because he was charged with a felony, his DNA was collected and entered into a federal database. But his DNA matched a sample collected in a 1983 rape case in Miami, before the younger Koehler was even born.
On 28 December 1983, a 25-year-old woman was forced to cover her face with a blanket before she was raped and stabbed in the abdomen with a sharp object, which authorities believe was an ice-pick.
Miami-Dade Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said because the DNA was so similar to the then-unknown suspect in custody, it was likely a close familial match.
“The offender had to be the man’s father”, she said.
Koehler, a convicted sex offender following a 1990 rape in Palm Beach, did not have DNA collected in that case. After suspecting him of the 1983 rape, police collected Koehler’s DNA from a grocery store cart.
Prosecutors say Koehler’s home contained several safes they believe held “souvenirs” from his victims, including jewellery, and a nail file that may have been used as a weapon during his attacks.
Police uncovered a room under the floor or Koehler’s house, which Miami-Dade prosecutor Laura Adams described as a “dungeon in progress”.
She said authorities “feared very much that if we had not gotten him into custody that he may have had other plans even worse than what he executed on all of these women from these cases”.
Ms Adams said “it’s difficult to say” whether Koehler had ever stopped allegedly victimising women after a task force — charged with finding the man responsible for the string of assaults -- had been disbanded 30 years ago.