October 1, 2008 in City

Coe victim recounts attack

‘I have to speak for these women,’ she says of decision to testify
Staff writer
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Julie Harmia testifies Tuesday at Kevin Coe’s civil commitment trial about the night she was raped by Coe in 1980.
(Full-size photo)

Julie Harmia, the only woman whose first-degree rape charge against Kevin Coe stuck, took the stand Tuesday in Coe’s civil commitment trial to describe her terrifying 1980 assault, which occurred two days after she and her husband moved to Spokane.

Although The Spokesman-Review generally doesn’t identify rape victims, Harmia granted permission to the newspaper to photograph and identify her as she testified in Spokane County Superior Court.

After her court appearance, the Yakima teacher said that recounting her rape in court was difficult. But she felt obligated, she said, to support the dozens of women who are victims of sexual assaults in which Coe is alleged to be the perpetrator.

“In all good conscience, we know if he gets out, he’ll offend again. I have to speak for these women, and we have to keep this in the public eye,” Harmia said.

The state wants to commit Coe to a state mental facility as a violent sexual predator likely to rape again. Harmia was its star witness; her rape, the only case to withstand a series of appeals, sent Coe to prison for 25 years.

It was dusk on Oct. 23, 1980, when Harmia, then 27, finished her first day of work as an assistant manager at the Zales jewelry store in downtown Spokane. She got off her bus and walked toward her home at 22nd Avenue and Rebecca Street, where she and her husband had moved in the day before.

Harmia said she noticed a man jog past her, then crouch behind an RV on 22nd. She thought he was playing a game with someone.

“That’s when he attacked me,” Harmia said.

Covering her mouth with his gloved hand, Coe dragged her into a vacant lot, where he raped her as he asked vulgar questions about her sex life. He swept her hair over her face so she couldn’t look at him. But when a passing car’s headlights shone into the lot, she got a good look at his face.

“He got very upset. … When he left, he said the police couldn’t protect me 24 hours a day,” Harmia said.

She later identified Coe as her assailant in police lineup.

“Did you learn the name of the man who assaulted you?” Assistant Attorney General Todd Bowers asked Tuesday.

“His name was Frederick Harlan Coe,” aka Kevin Coe, she replied.

Another woman told the jury Tuesday she was confronted by Coe on Upriver Drive in 1981 as he brandished a foot-long dildo. She also agreed to be identified following her testimony.

Mary Gullickson was an 18-year-old college freshman and track athlete who lived in an apartment near the Spokane River.

On March 8, 1981, she said, she went on her usual 10-mile run. Toward the end of her route, across from Avista’s corporate headquarters, she saw a man in jeans running toward her.

“He had something down from his crotch, and he was moving his hands. It was a large fake penis,” she said. The man yelled vulgarities at her as he approached.

Gullickson said she’d recently had a theft in her apartment and she had “just had it.”

After he passed, “I turned around and started chasing him. He was shocked. … I was gaining on him. He had the penis in his hand. I was saying, ‘Help, help,’ ” she said.

A couple in a passing car offered to help. They chased the man as Gullickson ran to a nursing home and called 911. She made a report the next day and identified Coe in a police lineup.

“I was 100 percent certain,” Gullickson said.

Kathleen Fairfax, who with her late husband helped in the chase that day, said Coe ran away and got into his car. She wrote down his license number on her checkbook register and also identified Coe in a police lineup.

Retired dentist Dr. John Little testified about an encounter with Coe on High Drive a week before the Gullickson incident, on Feb. 28, 1981.

Little said he was out for his morning run that Saturday at 33rd Avenue and High Drive and saw a man running about 300 feet ahead of him.

“He was naked from the waist down,” Little said.

He pursued the man, who jumped over the edge of the bluff near the corner of 29th and High Drive – emerging with red shorts on. Little identified Coe in a photo lineup March 19.

“I was dead certain he was the man,” Little said.

Coe had been arrested March 10, 1981, on suspicion of the rape of a 51-year-old woman at Hart Field.

In earlier testimony Tuesday, a former secretary at the James S. Black real estate office on the South Hill testified for the first time that she saw Coe hiding behind a tree in Hamblen Park in the summer of 1980 as he watched Spokane broadcaster Shelly Monahan stage a disco dance for young people.

Cheryl Ferguson said she recognized Coe because they worked in the same office.

Coe said in a videotaped deposition taken for his civil commitment trial this year that he’d never seen Monahan, a former disc jockey known as “Sunshine Shelly,” until his 1981 arrest.

Monahan was raped outside the KJRB radio studios on the South Hill on Sept. 9, 1979. She was unable to identify her attacker; her case was never tried.

Ferguson said she’d been employed for about a year when a dapper young real estate agent named Coe was hired.

At first, he came to work in three-piece suits and “Gucci-type” shoes and told her stories about his career as a disc jockey in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Ferguson said.

Although the two were close in age, Coe began treating her as a “mother figure” and calling her at home to ask why the other agents in the office didn’t like him, Ferguson said.

Coe’s demeanor began to change, and he sometimes showed up at work in a gray sweat suit with a stocking cap, gloves and facial stubble – occasionally with deep scratches on his face that he said came from dog attacks while he was jogging, Ferguson said.

Coe was fired and “escorted out the door” after his dismal year with the firm, she added.

The state also brought in a series of other women who were attacked in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

A former Deaconess nurse said she was heading to work when she was grabbed at 6:45 a.m. Dec. 11, 1979, by a man who shoved his gloved hand down her throat.

“He told me he had a knife, and he would cut me if I moved,” she said.

A woman who is now a social worker in California was 19 when she was raped April 4, 1980. She had been jogging in her South Hill neighborhood.

“He put me into a choke block. I couldn’t breathe,” she said.

A full-time law student, now a Colorado elementary school teacher, who was raped March 11, 1980, said she was “95 percent certain” her assailant was Coe when she saw him in a police lineup. She said she didn’t officially identify him because she’d worked for the public defender’s office and thought she should be 100 percent certain.

Another woman was 51 when she was grabbed while jogging on Hart Field on Feb. 5, 1981.

Her attacker wore rough gloves and pinned her to the ground with his knees on her shoulders before he raped her, she said.

“He said he needed this very badly,” she calmly told the jury.

Reach Karen Dorn Steele at (509) 459-5462 or at karend@spokesman.com.

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