October 9, 2008 in City

Coe is likely to reoffend, expert testifies

Staff writer
 

Kevin Coe has a “striking lack of empathy” and is highly likely to reoffend within six years if he’s set free, according to the state expert who evaluated him for his civil commitment trial.

“He’s had an extraordinary number of aggressive acts toward women,” psychologist Amy Phenix said in her Spokane Superior Court testimony Wednesday.

Coe offended over a 15-year period and at no time was he able to control his behavior, repeatedly acting out a “deviant script” as he forced himself on women or exposed himself in public, Phenix added. But in later cross-examination, Phenix admitted that Coe had committed no sex offenses during his 25 years at the Washington State Penitentiary.

From 1978, when Coe committed one sexual assault, his behavior escalated until he was committing sexual assaults nearly once a month in 1980, Phenix said. He was arrested in March 1981, when he was 34.

“It’s my belief that the rapes would not have stopped if he hadn’t been apprehended … he was never able to stop himself,” she said.

Phenix told the jury that when she interviewed Coe after a court order requiring him to participate, he denied raping or groping nearly three dozen women – including Julie Harmia, whose 1980 rape sent Coe to prison for 25 years.

“Did you ask him about the Harmia rape?” asked Assistant Attorney General Todd Bowers.

“He said he didn’t commit it – it was a case of mistaken identity,” Phenix replied. She was not allowed to tell the jury that the state has Coe’s DNA on a rape slide from the case.

Phenix said she reviewed 74,000 pages of records and has spent 500 hours on Coe’s civil commitment case.

In a criminal trial, it generally wouldn’t be allowed for experts to rely on a large number of unadjudicated cases, but the rules of a civil commitment trial are different, Phenix noted.

“It’s common in these cases to have some or many other alleged offenses” that don’t result in formal charges, she noted, adding that most sexual assaults are either unproved or never reported.

Under questioning, Phenix laid out incidents involving 33 women in chronological order.

The first was on March 22, 1977, when Coe allegedly peeked over a bathroom stall in a Spokane restaurant and made a vulgar remark to a 19-year-old woman. The car in which he fled the scene was traced to his father, Gordon Coe. The woman identified Coe in a photographic lineup.

Other cases not yet discussed in the trial included the rape of two massage parlor workers on June 17, 1979, and several incidents in which Coe allegedly grabbed women’s breasts or exposed himself.

In a Dec. 16, 1980, incident, Coe allegedly grabbed a woman who bit him and maced him in the face before he ran off.

Coe is a paraphilic rapist who is fascinated with urine and feces during sex and cannot control his behavior, Phenix said.

Paraphilia, according to documents introduced in court, is defined as “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors involving nonconsenting persons.”

A paraphilic is not simply a rapist who committed a sex offense, but it’s a rare pattern of abnormality that develops over time, Phenix said. “Most individuals who rape do not have a paraphilia,” she added.

According to the personality tests Phenix administered, Coe is immature, aggressive, moody, has major issues with impulse control and exhibits a “striking lack of empathy,” she added.

He also demonstrated “sadistic behavior” in the alleged rape of at least one woman, Shelly Monahan, Phenix said. Monahan has spoken publicly about her rape on several occasions and also testified last week in Coe’s trial.

“He hit her in the face several times, strangled her and tried to humiliate and degrade her. He asked her to urinate on him … and said, ‘I want to make you feel dirty,” Phenix said.

Monahan wasn’t able to identify Coe and he was never charged with her assault.

Coe also has a tendency toward extremely risky behavior, such as raping women in broad daylight and exposing his genitals to runners, she said.

“His problems cause him serious difficulty controlling his behavior,” Phenix said.

She said he has a high likelihood of reoffending within six years.

Coe’s lawyers, who have denied Coe has a mental abnormality or is at high risk to reoffend, cross-examined Phenix Wednesday afternoon.

Attorney Tim Trageser asked the psychologist about Coe’s age, 61, and whether it’s a factor in his likelihood to reoffend.

The risk declines as offenders age, but since there are so few paraphilic rapists in their 50s and 60s, the data are weak, Phenix said.

Given that Coe has severe sexual deviancy and an extreme history of sexual assaults and acting out over many years, “it’s inappropriate to apply that data to Mr. Coe,” Phenix replied.

If Coe were to be released, he’d have no community supervision, no work history and likely would be living alone, Phenix said. He also has refused sexual deviancy training in prison and at the state’s Special Commitment Center for sex offenders, she added.

“The risk goes up when sex offenders feel lonely and rejected,” Phenix said.

Trageser also pressed Phenix on whether Coe’s refusal to let authorities test his sexual arousal last year was appropriate because she’s already made up her mind that he was mentally abnormal.

“Would you have changed your opinion,” if Coe had agreed to the court-ordered test and it hadn’t shown he was aroused by nonconsensual sex? Trageser asked.

“No I wouldn’t have. I find it significant that he refused and he’s admitted he does have arousal to nonconsenting sex,” Phenix replied.

Phenix agreed with Trageser that Coe didn’t commit any sexual offenses during the 25 years he was in prison.

“You find it not at all remarkable that Mr. Coe didn’t act out over those 25 years?” Trageser asked.

“Not at all,” Phenix replied, adding that Coe “will be at risk to act out if he’s released to the community.”

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

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