October 2, 2008 in City

Coe violated rules in June

Counselor at state facility tells of sexual misconduct incident
Staff writer
 

Convicted rapist Kevin Coe broke the rules at the state’s Special Commitment Center for sexually violent predators on McNeil Island this summer by masturbating in his room while a female counselor was conducting room checks.

Susan Erickson, a rehabilitation counselor at the center, testified Wednesday in Coe’s civil commitment trial that she was checking rooms June 6. When she shone her flashlight inside Coe’s room, Coe had his pants down and “he was stroking himself,” she said under questioning from Assistant Attorney General Todd Bowers.

“He made no effort to cover himself, turn over against the wall or pull up his pants,” Erickson said. Coe, who is being held at the center until a Spokane Superior Court jury determines whether he fits the state’s definition of a sexually violent predator with a mental disorder, was written up for the rules violation.

Tim Trageser, Coe’s lawyer, pressed Erickson on whether she gave Coe a chance to explain his conduct.

“I said, ‘Not on my shift.’  …  He just looked at me with no expression on his face,” she replied.

Others whose testimony was read into the record Wednesday included the late Spokane psychiatrist Dr. Robert A. Wetzler and Gini Perham, Coe’s ex-girlfriend, who has refused to respond to subpoenas and has left the state.

Wetzler testified in the second of Coe’s criminal trials in 1985 that Coe confessed to raping a woman, who also testified Wednesday.

Wetzler said Coe told him in August 1981 that he was jealous of the South Hill rapist and tried to copy his methods, leading to him raping the woman.

Coe told Wetzler that 90 percent of what he was telling the psychiatrist was true and “the rest was lies,” according to Wetzler’s testimony.

At the time, Coe’s defense attorneys were trying to get him committed to a state mental hospital, which required him to admit he’d been involved in a rape. He instead was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the October 1980 rape of Julie Harmia, the one count that withstood appeals.

Coe, in a videotaped deposition this year, denied that he confessed a rape to Wetzler.

The woman Wetzler was referring to was 20 and a college student when she was attacked on the South Hill the morning of Feb. 9, 1981, shortly after dropping off her baby son at her parents’ house.

Coe’s conviction in her rape was overturned because she was hypnotized by Spokane police in their efforts to get an identification of her assailant.

Now an optician who lives in Idaho, the woman testified about her ordeal Wednesday. She did not want her name publicized.

Her attacker wore oven mitts and shoved one of them into her mouth when she tried to scream, the woman said. “I was bleeding from my nose into the oven mitts,” she said.

He raped her under a large tree in a neighbor’s yard while asking her crude questions about her sex life and threatening to harm her if she went to the police.

In other testimony Wednesday, part of the state’s effort to show Coe fits a pattern as a violent sexual predator, another woman recalled a frightening confrontation with a man she later identified as Coe.

On the morning of Jan. 2, 1981, the woman, then 31, was waiting near her house for the bus that would take her to work at the YMCA. It was dark, just before 7 a.m., when she saw a man in jogging clothes walk toward her, then pretend to stagger, she said.

As he recovered from his crouch, he waved a large fake penis at her from between his legs.

“He said, ‘Do you want to touch it?’ ” she recalled.

She swung a racquet at him that she carried in her duffel bag. He jumped back and ran down the hill, then turned and started running toward her in a crouch, his arms outstretched.

She ran home and later identified Coe in a photo lineup.

The state introduced a segment of a videotaped deposition of Coe taken earlier this year in which he admitted having a dildo in his car but said it probably belonged to his former girlfriend, Perham.

In her testimony from Coe’s criminal trial, Perham said Coe owned a fake penis “close to 2 feet high.”

She also said there was a moment in December 1980 when she feared Coe was the South Hill rapist. She’d just read a newspaper description of an unsuccessful rape. “It just came together – maybe he was out there raping women,” Perham said.

The Friday before Coe was arrested March 10, 1981, Perham said she woke up at 6:30 a.m. and encountered Coe washing a pair of stained oven mitts.

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


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