Brevard County

Palm Bay residents react to man linked to Pillowcase Rapist case living in neighborhood

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Neighbors said they’re in disbelief that the Palm Bay man who has been linked to the Pillowcase Rapist case from the 1980s was living next to them.

“It was just something I knew we needed to avoid,” said Betsy Tribe, one of the neighbors.

Robert Koehler, 60, has been linked to DNA samples matching as many as 25 sexual assault cases from as early as the 1980s, the Miami-Dade State Attorney announced during a news conference Thursday.

The Pillowcase Rapist is accused of sexually assaulting more than 40 women from South Miami to Deerfield Beach in the 1980s. His name came from allegedly using a pillowcase, towel or shirt to hide his face when he broke into victims’ homes and raped them at knifepoint. Victims also told investigators that he blindfolded them.

“Koehler is the source of that male DNA that was found in so many of these Pillowcase Rapist cases," State Attorney Katherine Fernandez said.

Koehler’s neighbors in Palm Bay told Channel 9 they’re in disbelief.

“I heard of the Pillowcase Rapist, but I didn’t expect him to be living down the street from me 30 years, 40 years later,” said George Masson, one of his neighbors who said he lived in South Florida back when the Pillowcase Rapist first made headlines decades ago.

Investigators also said Koehler kept a room excavated under his house where he kept several safes containing women’s possessions, according to investigators.

Related: Palm Bay man accused of 1983 rape may be linked to ‘Pillowcase Rapist,’ reports say

Koehler was arrested in Palm Bay over the weekend on charges of sexual battery with a deadly weapon from a single 1983 rape case in Miami-Dade County. On Thursday, he was extradited to Miami.

Detectives tracked down the suspected serial rapist using new DNA evidence from his son, who was arrested in an unrelated case. Detectives followed Koehler and swabbed samples off grocery carts and door handles, Fernandez said.

Related: Report: Florida police arrest man suspected of being ‘Pillowcase Rapist’ from 1980s

The Brevard County Sheriff’s Department is reviewing cold cases for any possible links to the Koehler.

“Our team started to delve in to try and look for any similarities in cases, anything that would be connected to Koehler.” Sheriff Wayne Ivey said. “Thus far, even though we haven’t exhausted all of our efforts, we haven’t found anything that indicates he did any evilness up in here, in our area.”

Officials urge any other victims of Koehler to call 305-547-0441.

While searching Koehler’s Palm Bay home, investigators found what they called a “dungeon in progress” that was a room excavated under his house. Inside his home, they found safes that contained several items of women’s jewelry, and “things that looked like trinkets,” prosecutor Laura Adams said.

“Possible souvenirs, if you will, of his prior offenses,” Adams said.

A metal nail file was also found wrapped in protective covering.