Attorneys for ‘Pillowcase Rapist’ try to have case tossed out

DNA evidence at the center of trial Friday as State rests its case

Decades after prosecutors say Robert Koehler raped women in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, prosecutors laid out how they were able to identify and match his DNA.

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – The trial continued Friday for Robert Koehler, known as the “Pillowcase Rapist,” in Miami-Dade County.

Koehler was arrested last year in connection with cold cases from the 1980s.

The now 63-year-old is charged in cases in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

As the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office rested its case on Friday afternoon, Koehler’s lawyers asked to have the case thrown out. Judge Daryl Trawick said “no” to the request. “The motion for judgment of acquittal is denied,” he told the court.

The jury heard how Koehler’s DNA was obtained and was linked to the crimes.

In the 1980s, the Pillowcase Rapist terrorized and raped more than 40 women from South Miami to Deerfield Beach.

Laura Adams, the assistant state attorney in the Miami-Dade County’s State Attorney’s office, asked Miami-Dade Police Department Forensic Investigator Jamie Bethel about the analysis of the DNA.

“Let’s assume for the sake of a hypothetical that this is also the man that you analyzed . . . Given those hypotheticals would you have an opinion (that this is) the DNA that was found on the vaginal and cervical swabs,” Adams queried.

“I would say it was his DNA found on the body.,” Bethel responded.

Also in Friday’s proceedings, the jury heard from investigators from Miami-Dade Police who, in 202, followed Koehler to a Walmart to find something he touched in hopes of using it to test his DNA.

“We saw that the defendant had wiped the shopping cart with wipes, the little canister of wipes they have there, cleaned the shopping bag and he had thrown it into the little trash area there,” Cecile Alvarez, a former Miami-Dade Police Department Sergeant said while on the stand.

They grabbed the wipe and forensic analysts were able to get DNA from it, which they tested against a sample found in a victim in the 1980s.

As Koehler watched on, Bethel, the forensic examiner, told the jury that it was extremely unlikely that the DNA belonged to anyone else.

“Can you please tell the members of the jury what is the statistical frequency with which you would expect to see this 21-point DNA profile, what that would be?,” Adamas asked Bethel.

“It would be 1 in 16.55 octillion,” he responded.

The only victim who will testify in the trial spoke on Thursday.

A man who knew Koehler from childhood, Edward Fernando Leyva, also testified Thursday, saying Koehler called him while in jail and asked him to tell the governor he’s innocent and that he’s being framed.

Terry Fonda, a former romantic partner of the defendant’s, also testified, saying she once heard Koehler cursing, angry at the notion that his daughter would submit to DNA testing.

According to authorities, Koehler raped a woman at knifepoint in June 1984 after breaking into her apartment in Pompano Beach.

The woman has waited decades for justice to be served against her attacker.

According to detectives, they became closer to naming a suspect in that case in 2019 when Cold Case Unit Sgt. Kami Floyd began digging through thousands of sexual assault cases from the 1980s and came upon the case of the Pompano Beach woman, along with other similar cases in BSO jurisdictions.

“I started trying to identify some of these cases that matched his MO,” Floyd said last year.

Around the same time, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced that they had arrested Koehler for a sex crime in their county.

Floyd then obtained a search warrant for Koehler’s DNA and it was tested by BSO’s Crime Lab, which found that his DNA matched the evidence in BSO’s cases, authorities said.

The agency’s Cold Case Unit detectives worked with the Broward State Attorney’s Office to bring charges against Koehler in six sexual assault cases.

While Koehler is currently charged in six cases in Broward County, detectives believe he snuck into homes late at night or in the early morning hours on at least eight occasions between 1984 and 1985. They also believe he is responsible for a total of 40 to 45 rape cases in the area throughout the 80s.

The state rested its case on Friday around 2 p.m. The jury was sent home. On Monday, the defense will get their turn to call witnesses. Koehler is expected to take the stand in his own defense.


About the Authors:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.