Woman Who Helped Convict Kevin Coe Steps Forward
SPOKANE – Convicted rapist Kevin Coe was suspected in more than 40 attacks and convicted of six but, because police hypnotized most of the victims, only one conviction has withstood appeals. The woman victimized in that attack says too many people have forgotten the terror of the South Hill Rapist but she can never forget and is stepping forward to tell her story.
In paperwork filed by the Washington State Attorney General’s office victims are listed by initial only. But the woman referred to as J-H has stepped out of the shadows and wants people to know both her name and her story if it could help keep Kevin Coe locked up forever.
“People need to remember what it was like to live through that and how horrific this monster is and how much he cannot be out in society,” Julie Harmia said.
Her monster is 59-year-old Kevin Coe and 25 years ago next month he changed her life forever.
“I got off the bus and started walking east on 22nd Avenue,” she recalled.
Julie and her husband had just moved to the neighborhood near 22nd and Rebecca the day before. They were told a South Hill Rapist was on the loose but were told he hadn’t attacked anyone east of Grand. As Julie walked the two blocks home she saw him.
“I saw this jogger crouch down behind this car looking down the street,” she said.
Julie thought he was playing a joke on someone but as she walked away, “… this arm came whipping across my ribs and he just picked me up and shoved his hand into my mouth and drug me into a field.”
It was the trademark of the South Hill Rapist. As she struggled to breathe she fought back and bit down hard on his hand.
“He used the side of his fist like a hammer and just pounded the side of my head several times.”
Julie doesn’t know how long the attack went on and doesn’t talk about the more horrific details of the rape but she remembers vividly the voice in her head.
“The survival Julie was talking to me and she was saying memorize his face, memorize his face. Don’t let this happen to anyone else, memorize his face,” she said.
She also recalled what the rapist told her at the time.
“He told me that if I reported this to the police, the police could not protect me 24 hours a day. He knew where I lived and he would kill me and I had no doubt he would,” she said.
She memorized the rapist’s face and because unlike many other South Hill rape victims she saw his face helped police build a composite sketch and picked Kevin Coe out of a line up.
Julie was the only victim police did not hypnotize and hers was the one conviction that stood up to appeals.
“Because I was able to come up with a composite I was the turning point in the case because now they had a face,” she said.
Now, because of her role in his original conviction she feels responsible to speak out again and again until her attacker gets the same sentence she has: She’ll live with this attack for life.
“You never heal from this. It’s like a piece of you has been amputated and it’s not gonna grow back and you learn to deal with it.”
Twenty five years have passed and Julie to this day can’t erase Kevin Coe’s face from her memory.
“It’s like a pestering sore and whenever you talk about it, you pull off the scab,” Julie said. “You blame yourself and you sit there and say – Why me? Why me? And you can’t dwell on that because you’ll go nuts.”
Julie moved away shortly after Coe’s trial, had kids, divorced and remarried, but an image of Coe she conjured up years ago is always there.
“I have this vision of him climbing up that tree and being able to see into my bedroom and bathroom and just seeing him up there in that tree. Whenever I think of this, that is the thing that was always there,” she said.
Julie wasn’t aware Coe’s release date was coming up, until the Attorney General’s office called her in June. Now she will likely get a new image of Coe as she will probably be called to testify against him if the civil commitment case goes to trial. She believes she has a duty to tell her story because so many of Coe’s victims cannot.
“There’s all these women behind me that I’m representing and we just all need to get our story out there and let everybody know what this was like,” she said.
Julie believes her pain and suffering have purpose, that even though she can’t get Coe’s face out of her mind she can save other women from that image.
“He’s not remorseful, he feels he’s above the law and he will – he will – do this again. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Julie said.