Americans are fascinated by serial killers: Jeffery Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, a.k.a. the “Night Stalker,” Ted Bundy and “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz are only a few of the murderous men whose names are burned into our consciousness.
But what about serial rapists?
Although not as well known or remembered for their horrific deeds, serial rapists follow patterns, just like serial killers—whether it’s by mode of entry into a victim’s home or the kind of victims they target. And there are other “tells,” as well.
“Their unifying motivation is power and domination,” according to Scott Bonn, criminologist and author of “Why We Love Serial Killers.”
“Both rely on the fulfillment of a fantasy outcome,” Bonn says, “For the Night Stalker, for example, it was the thrill. Even though he also committed burglary and rape, ultimately the only way to fulfill his thrill-fantasy was murder. For a serial rapist, the fantasy may not be thrill-seeking but a need for control. Rape is the way they gain control.”
Here are several serial rapists who have tried to exert control through terrifying means.
The South Hill Rapist
Frederick “Kevin” Coe was good looking, came from a well-respected and connected family, and was smooth and likable. These traits served as the perfect cover as he methodically stalked and assaulted as many as 37 women.
From 1978 through 1981, the South Hill Rapist (as the mysterious assailant came to be known) terrified the female population of Spokane. Women out walking or jogging reported being assaulted by what victims described as a man wearing workout gear.
Coe would approach the women in a friendly manner—as one jogger often greets another while on a trail—but would then force, and sometimes drag, his victim into a thicket, desolate park or vacant lot to sexually assault them.
Coe was finally arrested in March 1981, convicted in July that same year and sent to prison for life. Since Coe was found to be a sexually violent predator, he will live out his days at a special commitment center on Alcatraz-like McNeil Island in Washington.
The Jogger Rapist
One November night in 1979, 17-year-old Danielle Tudor was asleep in her Portland, Oregon home when she woke up and discovered a man in her room. She didn’t have time to think, she told me in an interview, because in an instant he was raping her. Danielle was the third victim of Portland’s “Jogger Rapist,” as Richard Troy Gillmore became known in the media.
Gillmore’s M.O.? He’d go out for a jog, target a victim, follow her home and rape her. Gillmore remained at large for more than six years. He was finally arrested in 1986 after he raped 13-year-old Tiffany Edens in her home.
Gillmore ultimately admitted to raping at least eight more women. But, due to the statute of limitations in Oregon at the time (three years) prosecutors were only able to try him for the rape of Edens. (The statute of limitations has since been increased to 12 years. However if new evidence is found in the case of a 1st-degree rape, criminal charges can be filed at any time.)
Gillmore was convicted and sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. He is scheduled for release in 2023.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Daniel Holtzclaw, convicted serial rapist, was brought down by a grandmother of 12.
Jannie Ligon reported the former Oklahoma City policeman in 2015 after he forced her to perform oral sex on him as she sat terrified in the passenger seat of his police cruiser. He had randomly pulled her over, though she had done nothing wrong.
Ligon found out she was one of more than a dozen women sexually assaulted by Holtzclaw. The survivors of his attacks—called the OKC13—were all African-American women who ranged in age from 17 to 57 years old. Holtzclaw was sentenced to 236 years in prison in December 2015 and filed an appeal in February, 2016.
No decision on the appeal has been made as of the publication date of this article, however a secret hearing took place this summer regarding Holtzclaw’s appeal.
The Spiderman Rapists
New York City
There were actually two “Spiderman” rapists in New York City in the 1980s.
Before he was caught in July 1986, Tyrone Graham attacked women in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuyvesant neighborhood. He got the name “Spiderman” because he wore a face mask and climbed through victim’s windows above the first floor. In two cases he tied up the victim’s husband—one in their own bed, the other in their kitchen.
Graham was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison after he pleaded guilty in February 1988 to two counts of first-degree rape, four counts of burglary and one count of unlawful imprisonment.
He was recently granted parole and released from prison.
The other “Spiderman” was Reginald Swinton, who climbed the fire escapes of his victims’ apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper East and West Sides. Swinton was already a convicted rapist who began serving an 11-year sentence in 1975. After his release on parole, he committed robbery and was back in prison until April 2005. He was arrested for the Spiderman rapes in July of that same year after it was found that he had raped three women.
He is currently serving a life sentence with no chance for parole.
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