Shortly after the “Pillowcase Rapist” suspect was arrested in Miami-Dade County in January 2020, a Broward County lady spoke to a detective.

The Broward detective requested Catherine whether or not she was blissful the person she thinks attacked her, the so-called Pillowcase Rapist suspect recognized as Robert Eugene Koehler, was in jail and is likely to be there for the remainder of his life.

“I’m actually blissful that he’s going to go to jail,” Catherine mentioned. “I hope he’s handled actually badly. I would like all the pieces horrible that would probably occur to a human being to occur to this man.”

She additionally hopes different survivors, as they’re referred to as, come ahead.

“I hope folks don’t really feel like they should be courageous, or say all the pieces,” mentioned Catherine, who now lives in New Jersey and requested to be recognized solely with a primary title. “Simply say ‘I used to be one,’ so the rely is thought, so the extent of how evil this man is is thought.”

Officers assume there may very well be greater than 40 survivors in South Florida. The Broward Sheriff’s Workplace, with assist from the Nancy J. Cotterman Middle, not too long ago issued six arrest warrants for Koehler, who’s being held in a Miami jail on two fees from a sexual battery case. In 2020, the Miami-Dade State Legal professional Workplace mentioned DNA proof linked Koehler to a minimum of 25 unsolved instances from the Nineteen Eighties. However the proof may very well be powerful to amass in these instances.

The Pillowcase Rapist, referred to as that as a result of he’d typically cowl his sufferer’s face with a pillowcase (in addition to cowl his personal face with a shirt or one thing related), is suspected of a reign of terror from Deerfield Seashore to South Miami between Might 1981 and February 1986.

Though Catherine’s assault occurred in 1984, instances resembling hers might nonetheless be prosecuted as a result of the Cotterman Middle, positioned in downtown Fort Lauderdale and the one licensed sexual assault program for Broward County, preserved proof and medical studies, because it at all times does.

“What occurred particularly on this case,” mentioned Ana Maria Ferrer, human providers administrator for the Cotterman Middle, “is with some advances in DNA testing know-how, they have been capable of re-test the proof that was collected right here, after which sure matches and hits got here up with that proof.”

Catherine has many causes for hoping others come ahead, together with the way it might assist the survivors.

“For me it’s actually a matter of partly getting justice, partly making this monster know that he can’t get away with this,” she mentioned.

“It’s like, you didn’t do something fallacious — this man did one thing horrible. He must be actually punished for what he’s executed. And also you don’t want to cover; you don’t should be ashamed,” Catherine mentioned. “That’s what makes me unhappy, if folks really feel like this can be a darkish, ugly secret they should preserve all their life.”

Catherine suffers from Put up Traumatic Stress Dysfunction because of her assault, and he or she mentioned the consequences have been dramatic and lasting.

As a result of he held a pointy object to her throat, Catherine was afraid to have a block of knives in her home for years. As a result of he stole cash from her, she was afraid to have cash in her home as a result of she thought it’d result in one other rape and theft.

Even now, nearly 40 years after the assault, she nonetheless experiences triggers that convey on nervousness. And he or she generally can’t assist considering the lengthy restoration course of has been her fault one way or the other as a result of she wasn’t harder or as a result of it’s been more durable to manage than she thought.

“I might have preferred to have extra of the life that I believed I used to be going to have as an alternative of the one I bought,” she mentioned.

The Cotterman Middle might assist in that side, too, as a result of it affords ongoing counseling to sexual assault survivors.

“It doesn’t solely occur to girls,” Ferrer mentioned. “It occurs to males, as effectively.”

The Cotterman Middle opened in 1977 and is transferring to an even bigger location in Oakland Park subsequent 12 months. It serves sexual abuse and youngster abuse victims in a confidential method. It has 57 fulltime workers who can converse English, Spanish, Creole and Portuguese, and it’s at all times staffed, 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

“In a single 12 months we’ll doubtlessly see between 3,000 and 4,000 people,” Ferrer mentioned. “However that features not solely sexual violence, that features youngster abuse.”

In sexual abuse instances, survivors are sometimes dropped at the Cotterman Middle by regulation enforcement for a bodily examination and medical report.

“Now we have seen infants, and we now have seen the aged being assaulted,” Ferrer mentioned. “We work with the entire age vary.”

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The Cotterman Middle conducts a full examination and makes use of a Sexual Assault Proof Assortment equipment to collect semen or different proof, look at clothes, and doc accidents. The proof is positioned in a set bag, which is sealed. In lots of instances the medical report that accompanies the bodily proof is vital. Law enforcement workplaces, such because the Broward Sheriff’s Workplace, take possession of the bag and the Cotterman Middle retains a replica of the medical report, which is likely to be required at a later date.

“A part of the method is that when they gather it, additionally they function skilled witnesses,” Ferrer mentioned, “in order that they go to court docket they usually current their findings, their medical report. Additionally they function skilled witnesses within the prison prosecution instances.”

Though it’s not cheerful work, it’s generally gratifying.

“What we discover right here is we’re capable of assist survivors by way of essentially the most weak time of their life, assist them by way of that course of,” Ferrer mentioned.

Catherine hopes different survivors hear that message and take motion.

“As I say, I would like folks to return ahead,” she mentioned. “I would like him to be charged with each single prison act he’s executed.”

Chris Perkins may be reached at chperkins@sunsentinel.com.



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