Statute of Limitations and the “Pillowcase Rapist” Case

January 23, 2023 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

In certain criminal cases, there is an allotted period of time to report the crime for prosecution, which is known as the Statute of Limitations. However, there are more serious offenses for which there is no statute of limitations. Most commonly cases involving sexual battery or other sexual offenses.

This article will provide details from a cold case now going to trial, along with information on Donna’s Law and Tallahassee’s Cold Case Unit.

Case Details

The trial for the Robert Koehler has begun in Miami-Dade County. Koehler has been referred to as the “Pillowcase Rapist” after being accused of breaking into women’s homes and putting a pillowcase over his or the victims’ heads before raping them.

“He would break into their apartment in the middle of the night,” said Cold Case Unit Sgt. Kami Floyd. “He would have a sharp instrument, threaten them not to scream and not say anything [and then] sexually batter them.”

The case had gone cold until a breakthrough in 2019 when Floyd matched several sexual assault cases that matched in motive. Around the same time, Koehler was arrested for a sex crime in the county. A warrant was obtained for Koehler’s DNA and tested with BSO’s Crime lab. Koehler’s DNA matched the cold case evidence.

Koehler was arrested in June 2022 and has since been charged with six different cases in Broward County, due to detectives believing he snuck into at least eight homes between 1984 and 1985. Police believe Koehler was responsible for 40 to 50 rape cases throughout the ‘80s.

Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes

When it comes to criminal offenses, each state has its own statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is any law that bars prosecution after a specific period of time after the offense. Statute of limitations can begin from the day of the offense, the date it was discovered, or the date which would have been discovered under reasonable efforts.

In Florida’s more serious offenses—such as rape or murder—there is oftentimes no statute of limitations. That means a prosecution can happen at any time after the offense has occurred. The following is a list of criminal offenses which have no statute of limitation in Florida:

Under Florida Statute Section 775.15, if the victim of a criminal offense is younger than 18, then the applicable period of limitation will not begin until the victim has reached the age of 18. If the victim is over the age of 18 and reports the crime within 72 hours of the commission of the crime, then there is no state of limitations as long as the crime committed reaches a second or first-degree felony. Generally, any crime that is a capital felony, a life felony, or a felony that ended in the death of another has no statute of limitations. This means that prosecutors are not barred by a specific period of time to file charges.  When there is no statute of limitation, the prosecutors can bring charges in cold cases when new evidence is found that points to a person who committed the crime.

To find out more about Florida’s Statute of Limitations, read our page here.

Donna’s Law

In 2020, Florida Legislature passed a new law titled, “Donna’s Law.” The law was named after Donna Hendrick, who was sexually abused by her music teacher at an Orlando high school in 1972. The law covers sexual battery and the time of limitation to charge the accused person with the crime.

Nearly four decades after the sexual battery incident, two other former students came forward to report that they were sexually abused as well. However, at the time the State’s statute of limitations required a criminal prosecution within four years of the alleged crime. 

According to the Florida Senate, Donna’s Law provides that there is no longer a time limitation for prosecuting those accused of sexual battery when the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the offense. The bill’s new exception of general time limitation went  into effect for offenses committed on or after July 1st, 2020.

Mary Marx, CEO of the Pace Center for Girls, said that the victims of such sex crimes are put through a multitude of psychological and societal factors when it comes to reporting the offense to the police.

“It permits prosecution at any time for any sexual battery offense that involved a victim under the age of 18 at the time of the offense,” Marx explained of the new law. “Essentially what it does is it removed time limitations on when sexual battery on a minor can be prosecuted.”

Marx stated that one in four girls are believed to be sexually abused by the time they turn 18 while one in six boys suffer from the same type of abuse.

“The importance of this is, for multiple reasons, a lot of kids do not report sexual assault or sexual abuse that occurred when they were children until their adult years,” Marx said.

Tallahassee Cold Case Unit

Across the state of Florida, law enforcement agencies have created cold case units to help solve “cold” crimes. A cold case is defined as an unsolved criminal investigation that has no longer been investigated due to a lack of evidence.

Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) has its own cold case unit that is responsible for investigating unsolved cases of homicides and missing persons. The responsibility of the cold case unit is to review open and unsolved major cases, discuss possible factors to solve the case, and provide documents to follow up with the investigation.

Any of the reviewed cases will remain within the unit and be investigated actively. With the help of advances in technology, law enforcement agencies have a better chance of solving cold case crimes. The Tallahassee Police Department’s Cold Case unit number is (850) 891-4462.

In addition, TPD works with Crime Stoppers to solve community crime. The law enforcement agency requests that anyone with information regarding a cold case contact TPD or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS or leave an online tip here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Any person accused of a sex crime should seek out legal guidance immediately. Criminal convictions for sex crimes can have life-altering impacts—including expensive fines and imprisonment. A sex crime conviction will also likely lead to the defendant registering under Florida’s Sex Offender Registry.

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, contact Pumphrey Law Firm today. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience working with Florida citizens across the state. To receive a free consultation regarding your case, contact us at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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