A warm All Things Crime Blog welcome to JJ Rogers, our newest contributor. In the course of his eclectic life, JJ has found plenty of time to study the heinous crimes of The Pacific Northwest which he will be presenting in his posts.

by JJ Rogers

I do not condone rape in any of its pervasive forms. When a man sets out to stalk a woman with the intent to rape her, society cannot stand idly by allowing these barbaric behaviors to continue.  Unfortunately, sometimes otherwise good police work is contaminated with such unbelievable incompetence that the offender is allowed back into society. Once in a long while, it may work in the opposite direction. In these cases, even after the Keystone Cops bungle blindly, universal karma may hold the keys to the prison cell.

Born Frederick Harlan Coe to Ruth Coe, he is also known as Kevin Coe, the South Hill Rapist of Spokane, Washington.

coe131978-1981 in Spokane, Washington were years filled with the palpable fear of a monster living amongst us. Up to 43 women reported being brutally attacked and raped. The man who was stalking these women earned the moniker, “the South Hill Rapist”, based on the attacks all occurring in the “South Hill” region of Spokane, Washington.

The man who was eventually arrested for 6 of these rapes, and very likely committed all of them plus, perhaps, more that went unreported, was convicted by a jury of his peers of only 4 rapes. Even though a popular TV/Radio personality was one of these victims, she could never identify her attacker, even after she underwent hypnosis. The rape convictions were overturned on appeal due to the Spokane Police Department using hypnosis techniques during witness interviews.

These methods were used to unlock the memories of the victims, and were the basis for overturning the original convictions.

coe1A second jury found Kevin Coe guilty of 3 of the 4 rapes. In 1988, Coe appealed and had 2 of these convictions overturned based on the original hypnosis issue. Only one of the raped women could readily identify him. Based on this conviction, Coe was sentenced to 25 years in state prison for rape along with a brutal beating. Although most of the case was circumstantial, the South Hill Rapist had a signature move which the victim attested to. During the assaults, he would wear gloves and shove his hand into the woman’s mouth and part way down her throat to silence her. The immediate threat of death by asphyxiation would render the victim immobilized with fear.

While serving his entire 25-year term, Coe steadfastly maintained his innocence. But do not be confused by his subterfuge, his claims are entirely false. He was, and always will be the South Hill Rapist. The latest scientific breakthroughs have allowed old rape kits to be tested for DNA and Kevin Coe is guilty. The only DNA, however, linking him to the original rapes he was charged with, is for the single rape he was convicted of which resulted in his 25 year prison term.

23 other victims, however, have come forward over the years to officially identify him as their assailant. But he has not yet been charged with any of these rapes.

coe9State authorities blocked Coe’s planned release in 2006 and a Spokane County jury deemed him a continuing danger to society following a month long civil commitment proceeding. He is being detained indefinitely as a “sexually violent predator” at the state’s special commitment center on McNeil Island.

The statute that allowed this confinement is the Washington State Community Protection Act, passed in 1990, 15 years into Kevin Coe’s 25-year sentence.  It is designed to protect communities against those who are likely to re-offend.

coe4Kevin Coe has filed a federal lawsuit to fight what could be a permanent commitment. He is serving as his own attorney. In the lawsuit, Coe argues that his due process rights were violated by the civil commitment. His complaint is that he was prevented from cross-examining five victims of the unprosecuted sexual assaults that jurors were told were coe11committed by him. He also argues that his defense lawyer, Tim Trageser, was ineffective and that the jurors were given incomplete instructions.

If Kevin Coe is released, officials are afraid he will stalk, brutally beat, and rape more women.  The question is whether that behavioral assessment will preclude him from ever rejoining society? It is not yet clear what the answer will be and we will have to wait and see. Meanwhile, we can breathe easily knowing that the South Hill Rapist is securely incarcerated on McNeil Island.


coeJJ Rogers is the owner of Northern Tier Fine Arts Studio. A bit of a Renaissance man, he is a professional portrait artist and a retired math teacher. He has served as a Washington State Math Advisory Panelist, and is the creator of many state math questions on high stakes testing. Most importantly for us, however, he has substantial knowledge of crimes of violence commiited in the Pacific Northwest over the past 40 years. 



9 Responses to Will Karmic Retribution Trip Up Kevin Coe, the Notorious South Hill Rapist?

  1. BJW Nashe says:

    Welcome, JJ. Great post on a complicated legal case involving horrific crimes. The hypnosis angle is certainly strange. Wonder if ouija boards and seances are also part of the police repertoire up there. Or psychic detectives.

    One of my favorite American writers, Jess Walter, lives in Spokane. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

    Look forward to further stories from you. Cheers.

  2. lissaredshoes says:

    Fantastic debut, JJ. The description of his MO (shoving gloved hand into the woman’s throat to silence her) was brutal and chilling. As a woman, I am grateful that somehow “karma” played the right tune here in keeping this man behind bars. I don’t doubt that if Coe was released and left to his own devices that he would continue his own brand of brutal assaults. Has undergone any psychological assessments while he’s been in prison?

  3. Rick says:

    Well done, JJ! I’m not surprised that Coe’s rape convictions based on hypnotically-refreshed memories were set aside, apparently because such testimony was infected by hypnosis, a technique which does not satisfy the standard for admissibility of scientific evidence under the Kumho-Daubert standard. For that same reason, the results of polygraph examinations are not admissible in court unless both sides stipulate to their admissibility. The inadmissibility of polygraph test results has not prevented law enforcement authorities from using them to rule out people as suspects in their criminal investigations and intelligence agencies from using the technique to ferret out potential spies and double agents.

    A very important legal issue in Coe’s appeal of the civil commitment order is whether his constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him were violated by his inability to have an opportunity to cross-examine the additional alleged rape victims, as to whom he was not charged of raping. In the last 15 years or so, the U.S. Supreme Court has strengthened the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment in a series of criminal procedure cases, most notably, in Crawford v U.S., and a more recent case in which the Court held that a defendant must have the right to cross-examine the line lab technician (not just the supervisor) who performed forensic tests linking the defendant to the crime in question. I’d be surprised if Coe doesn’t receive assistance from the ACLU or a similar organization in his appeal (assuming that he accepts such help) because this would appear to be a sure-fire winning issue for him (assuming thst the court determines that a commitment proceeding is penal or quasi-criminal in nature, so that confrontational rights attach). In all likelihood, there will be a “do-over” of the civil commitment trial, during which Coe (or his counsel) will have an opportunity to cross-examine the additional alleged rape victims. Such a result seems to be a perversion of our criminal justice system but the clear trend of the law favors the confrontational rights of the accused.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      I wondered about Coe not being allowed to confront the witnesses at the civil proceeding. It sounded wrong to me — based on what you’re saying they may have to do it all over again.

  4. Lianne Loo says:

    This is a great synopsis of what must have been a very complicated case, given the mishandling of evidence and witnesses by the police and prosecutor’s office early in the game. Too many people forget that there is a vast gulf between what is ‘right’ and what is ‘legal’. It is possible to know beyond doubt that a person or legal identity (like a corporation) is responsible for a crime and another thing altogether to prove it. While it is an enviable standard that implies that we as a society value our citizens’ right to liberty at the occasional expense of allowing the guilty to escape punishment, in practice it severely hampers our ability to ensure the safety of our citizens. JJ, you have done a great job on your first effort – bring us more like this!

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Very interesting case. We’re very glad to have JJ writing for us.

      As someone who works in the legal profession I’m very aware of the distinction between “truth” and “legal truth” but it never hurts to point this out.

      • Lianne Loo says:

        Therein lies the distinction, Mr. Moore. You work in the legal profession. The average law-abiding individual still believes that ‘law’ and ‘justice’ are synonymous. You have to fall afoul of the legal system before you have even a glimmering of insight into what constitutes the difference.

  5. […] Will Karmic Retribution Trip Up Kevin Coe, the Notorious South Hill Rapist? […]

  6. Jeff L'Heureux says:

    My name is Jeff L’Heureux. I was alternate juror #1 on the first trial in Spokane. They came to King Co. to pick a jury for obvious reasons. It was quit an event…the trial itself…his mother Ruth trying to hire a hit man to kill Judge Shields and the prosecutor Mr. Brockett…His lawyer, heartbroken and drunk I believe, driving her car into the Spokane River…His father Gordon and the Spokesman Review Connection…All very strange…It inspired me to think of a band name, CULPRIT, and also write a song which became the name of our Album…”Guilty As Charged”…After the trial the entire jury received a large manila envelope with pictures and press releases. Mine has gone missing over the years..I would love to find some pictures of the jury for posterity. Any help would be appreciated!

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