Investigator testifies on similarities of South Hill rapes
Kevin Coe’s distinctive “signature” – including a gloved hand forced down the throat and crude sex talk – was present in 18 of 52 rapes committed on Spokane’s South Hill from 1978 to 1981, according to a nationally known crime profiler.
Robert Keppel, a Spokane native and former Seattle cop turned expert in “signature analysis,” testified Monday for the Washington attorney general’s office in Coe’s civil commitment trial.
Keppel has also investigated serial killers Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway, known as the “Green River killer.” His conversations with the imprisoned Bundy about the criminal mind formed the basis of the Clarice Starling-Hannibal Lecter relationship in “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Keppel said he began his analysis of the South Hill rapes with the October 1980 rape of Julie Harmia, the case that sent Coe to prison for 25 years. Keppel then examined 51 other cases submitted by state prosecutors, examining 20,000 documents.
Keppel found five common factors in the 18 rapes:
•Intimidation by ambushing victims, ramming a fist or fingers into their throats and using offensive language.
•The rapist’s order that the victim take off her clothes.
•The rapist’s removal of his own clothes.
•The rapist’s need to have intercourse or ejaculate.
•The rapist’s questioning of and use of obscene language with the victim.
“My opinion is they were all raped by the same person,” Keppel said.
Also Monday, Coe’s best friend from childhood testified that Coe told him he roamed the corridors of Browne’s Addition apartment buildings in the 1970s, trying doorknobs as he sought access to the homes of young women.
Coe told him about an incident in May 1971 when he gained access to an apartment during the night and tripped over a sleeping woman, who screamed, said Jay Williams, a Spokane Valley resident and former real estate colleague of Coe’s.
“Do you recall Coe saying he was disoriented and in some other state?” Assistant Attorney General Malcolm Ross asked.
“No, he didn’t say that,” Williams said.
That contradicts Coe’s videotaped statements in deposition, taken earlier this year and played for the jury last week, that he’d had an allergic reaction to medication, become disoriented and believed he was at a friend’s house in Los Angeles at the time of the incident. Coe was chased down by apartment residents and arrested on suspicion of indecent liberties for fondling the woman.
Williams also identified Coe’s voice on a pornographic tape Coe allegedly sent to a woman from the Washington State Penitentiary in 1985. He recently reviewed the tape for the Washington attorney general’s office, which is seeking to have Coe indefinitely committed as a violent sexual predator.
The Pullman woman – identified in court as C.G. – turned over the materials to the Moscow (Idaho) Police Department, which wrote a report June 26, 1985. Police there sent the evidence to the Spokane Police Department.
“The explicit sexual tape Mr. Coe recorded to send to Ms. G. contained significant information about his sexual interests,” Phenix said in her report – bolstering the state’s contention that Coe suffers from a mental abnormality and is fascinated with urine and feces during sex.
In the year before Coe’s March 1981 arrest in connection with the South Hill rapes, Coe’s personality began to change, Williams recalled. He was more remote, and their old childhood joke lines no longer were amusing to Coe, he said. Coe’s work attendance was spotty.
After his arrest, Coe asked Williams to lie for him and destroy evidence related to the South Hill rapes, Williams said.
“He asked me to go to the police and tell them I’d been working with him to try to catch the South Hill rapist,” with Williams dressed like a woman. “He said, ‘I’ve been trying to catch him. I need you to go and verify that,’ ” Williams said.
Before Coe’s 1981 trial, Williams said his friend asked him to testify as a character witness and gave him a two-page printout of what he was supposed to say. The traits he’d listed came from a book about psychopaths called “The Mask of Sanity,” Williams recalled.
“He said these are the traits opposite a psychopath,” Williams said.
While some applied to Coe, he said, others didn’t, including a “joie de vivre” – an overall love of life.
“I told him I’d be unable to testify and attribute all those traits to him … I told him I couldn’t do it” because it would imply he agreed Coe was innocent, Williams said over objections from Coe’s lawyers.
Williams said Coe also expressed disappointment that his sister’s husband wouldn’t testify on his behalf. He said Coe told him, “Curiously, my brother-in-law has some principle against lying.”
Williams also told the jury that Coe instructed him to retrieve and destroy a dildo and a jogging jacket from an unoccupied house that had been for sale when Coe had hid the items in the basement, using his real estate agent’s pass key.
“He said the police could construe these articles as evidence (Coe is) a rapist,” Williams said.
Williams entered the house and retrieved the dildo. He said he tried to hide it under his sport coat and left the house. “I was very uncomfortable with this. I tossed it in the first Dumpster,” Williams said.
Also Monday, retired Spokane police Detective Roy Allen described his efforts to find the perpetrator of the South Hill rapes in the early 1980s.
Allen interviewed the 51-year-old woman raped at Hart Field on Feb. 15, 1981, and another woman raped four days later. Both have testified in the civil commitment trial.
Based on their descriptions, Allen said the perpetrator appeared to be a white male in his late 20s, about 6 feet tall and 170 pounds with a squarish jaw.
The methods used in the rapes were similar, Allen said. They both occurred early in the morning and both were outdoors. In both, the perpetrator was a stranger who rammed a gloved hand down the victims’ throats and used “vulgar and obscene” words when he talked to the women, Allen said.
“After his arrest, and before you retired, did you learn of any other rapes that had those distinct MO features?” asked Assistant Attorney General Malcom Ross.
“No,” Allen replied.
Allen said he tracked Coe’s silver Citation to Coe’s house on 29th Avenue.
Coe had been identified by a young woman jogger as he flashed a large dildo at her near Avista’s headquarters.
“It was felt we could not allow him to run free, so we decided to arrest him” on March 10, 1981, Allen said.
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