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Originally published Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Spokane rapist Kevin Coe's writings in jail reveal sex obsession

Convicted rapist Kevin Coe's notes, prison complaints, legal work, even a self-published pornographic novel suggest a smart, arrogant, sex-obsessed man sure he could write his way out of prison.

The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review

Kevin Coe is back on McNeil Island, behind the locked gates and razor wire of the state's home for sex predators.

In more than a quarter-century of confinement, the notorious Spokane rapist largely kept his silence.

But in his cell, Coe was for years quietly churning out a large archive. Through a public-records request, The Spokesman-Review obtained thousands of pages of Coe's writings.

They include notes, prison complaints, legal work, even a self-published pornographic novel. The writings suggest a smart, arrogant, sex-obsessed man sure he could write his way out of prison.

They also show a manipulative inmate who wrote dozens of manic love letters to a Hanford secretary, Shawn O'Brien, who eventually married him in prison.

But most of his writing consisted of legal arguments and the outlines for two huge books that were intended to exonerate him.

Coe, now 61, was arrested in 1981, suspected of being the South Hill rapist who had terrorized Spokane for two years.

In long letters to friends on the eve of his first trial, Coe laid out the case for his innocence. He was such a "male feminist," he said, that his girlfriend, Ginny Perham, jokingly called him Alan Alda.

Coe's jailers gave him good reviews for his first couple of years in prison. A typical record from 1983 described him as a cooperative, low-profile inmate whose family was supportive. He exercised intensely — 200 push-ups and 100 chin-ups daily — and spent hours each day at a typewriter. He told prison officials that he hoped to be freed soon.

"Obsessed" with rape

In letters and legal documents, he continued to maintain his innocence, pointing to other felons as more likely to be the real South Hill rapist.

Yet he did acknowledge in an early 1980s document that he had been "obsessed" with "committing a rape."


Upon arrival at the state prison in Shelton, Mason County, Coe wrote a brief statement for the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles.

He said he was intrigued by the South Hill rapist cases.

"I devoted a good deal of time to the SHR clue search," he wrote. The acronym stands for South Hill rapist.

"At some point ... I became obsessed with the notion of committing a rape. I did so in an SHR copycat fashion.

"The act completely turned me off," Coe wrote.

But that admission doesn't indicate that he was the South Hill rapist, he wrote. Instead of prison, he wrote, "I would like sexual psychopathy treatment."

Prison officials turned the document over to prosecutors.

In 1985, Coe struck up a pen-pal correspondence with a former Spokane woman.

"Case is comin' fine, darlin'," he wrote. "I will be free in about 15 months."

The woman got married and moved to Idaho. Coe kept sending her letters.

"It is I who will teach you the meaning of pleasure," he wrote, urging her to send photos of herself.

Coe mailed her a cassette tape of himself with extremely explicit talk. The woman called police.

That same summer, Shawn O'Brien, 25, a Hanford secretary, wrote to Coe. She'd read author Jack Olsen's book, "Son: A Psychopath and His Victims," about the Coe case.

"Unusual name for a female," Coe wrote back.

By fall, Coe was proposing marriage.

Coe's letters were full of endearments and manic expressions of love, often in capital letters. He called O'Brien "Wifey-poo" or "Duckling." He was "Huz-buns."

Married in 1986

Coe eventually gave O'Brien an ultimatum: Marry him in prison and he'd always owe her a great debt. Marry him later and he'd owe her nothing, including fidelity.

Months before their October 1986 wedding, Coe began sending O'Brien credit-card applications.

"These credit cards can be enormously valuable," he said. "... Have as many as possible and apply while your credit is A-1."

He soon urged her to ask for higher credit limits. And he kept careful track of her pay, noting when she was getting raises. By late 1986, O'Brien was pulling out hundreds of dollars in cash advances on a credit card to send to Coe.

In addition to their regular visits, the two qualified for overnight stays together in one of the prison's trailers.

O'Brien, living on less than $1,400 a month, was struggling with finances and loneliness.

In letters apparently written by Coe, she pitched his manuscript to agents.

"We truly believe ours is the greatest UNTOLD and UNSOLD story in existence today," read one letter. "... The story of the Coe cases and Kevin himself can be a highly profitable commodity."

But by May 1988, O'Brien had had enough. Coe responded to her request for a divorce with a polite but distant farewell, suggesting Nevada for a quiet divorce filing and asking her to ship all his files to his parents. "And please take good care of yourself," he wrote, "... because we may need to call you as a witness someday."

Since 2006, Coe has spent most of his time at the state's Special Commitment Center, the state's high-security home for sex predators who've served their prison terms but are deemed too dangerous to release. He was said to be struggling with depression as the state successfully asked a jury to order him involuntarily committed, perhaps for life, to the remote facility.

"He was just like anybody facing trial," said sex predator Richard Scott, who eats with Coe at the facility. "It's a situation that none of us want to face. ... But he took the pressure well."

Back on McNeil Island, Coe was under observation in the facility's "intensive management unit," last week, Scott said.

Scott, who said he has spent time in the unit, described it as a "prisonlike" room in a basement, with other residents frequently yelling.

"So he's down there in this torture chamber," Scott said, "to see if he's depressed."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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