They called him the Pillowcase Rapist.

For years, he stalked through south Florida like a ghost, breaking into women's homes, raping them at knifepoint, then disappearing into the darkness.

Police suspect he assaulted at least 44 women between 1981 and 1986. Victims said he blindfolded them with pillows or linens during the attacks while hiding his own face under a towel or hood.

Investigators vetted hundreds of suspects, chased thousands of leads and distributed more than one million flyers in a desperate effort to track him down. At one point, authorities even hired a sculptor to create a clay bust of the suspect. Somehow, he evaded arrest.

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"He's not invisible," one frustrated detective said in 1985, "but he might as well be."

Now, more than three decades after the case went cold, police say they have found the man they believe is the serial rapist, according to the Miami Herald.

New DNA evidence led investigators to Robert Eugene Koehler, a 60-year-old registered sex offender from Palm Bay, Florida, who was arrested over the weekend on a sexual battery charge. The evidence came not from the suspected rapist, but from his son, who was arrested in an unrelated case.

Koehler was taken into custody in Brevard County, Florida, and extradited to Miami-Dade, where he was booked into jail on Wednesday afternoon, records show. For the time being, Koehler is charged in connection with one rape, authorities told local media, but dozens of other counts could follow.

Courtroom video showed Koehler on Tuesday making his first appearance before a judge, who ordered him held without bond. He wore a green smock, known as a suicide gown, that authorities often place on high-profile prisoners.

"I'm not guilty," Koehler told the judge.

The statement did not represent a formal plea, which Koehler will be allowed to enter later. "Go ahead and sign the paperwork," the judge said. Then a guard led Koehler away.

Attorney information for Koehler was not immediately available.

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Miami-Dade police and state attorney's office officials have not commented on the arrest of the man they believe to be responsible for the string of rapes that terrorized South Florida in the 1980s.

A warrant reveals it was the arrest of Koehler's son that led authorities to zero in on him as the suspect in a previously unsolved rape from 1983. In that decades-old case, a 25-year-old woman identified only as E.V. was inside her Miami-Dade County home three days after Christmas when a man appeared, carrying a sharp object that might have been an ice pick.

She screamed, and the intruder put a hand over her mouth before knocking her to the floor. He stabbed her in the abdomen and threatened to kill her if she didn't stop screaming. She went quiet.

The man led E.V. to a bedroom, where he pushed her to a bed, and covered her face - first with a blanket, then with a pillow. He raped her, telling her to "shut up" when she said she couldn't breathe. Then he was gone.

Police obtained a DNA profile from the evidence collected in a rape kit. It was entered into the FBI database CODIS, but the suspect would elude them for decades - even though Koehler was arrested in a separate sex crime.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show he was convicted of sexual battery in a 1991 case out of Palm Bay. As a result, he was required to register as a sex offender. But his conviction came before Florida began requiring convicts to submit DNA, the Herald reported.

As the years passed and the Pillowcase Rapist faded from the headlines, the case was revived repeatedly by Miami-Dade police, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and US Homeland Security investigations, according to the newspaper.

A break would not come until Jan. 13 of this year, when detectives learned that CODIS had discovered a DNA match in the 1983 case. The warrant doesn't identify Koehler's son, but Brevard County court records show that a 29-year-old Robert J. Koehler was arrested in September after his girlfriend reported that he threatened her, broke flower pots outside her home and tried to break in through a window.

He was charged with attempted burglary, criminal mischief and domestic violence, but prosecutors ultimately dropped the case.

The investigation of his father, however, was just beginning.

Notified of the DNA hit, authorities began tracking the elder Koehler. They followed him to a public area on Jan. 16, gathering DNA evidence from items he had touched. Analysts with the Miami-Dade Police Department crime laboratory compared it to the DNA from the nearly 40-year-old case and made a match.

The arrest of the Pillowcase Rapist suspect represents a victory for investigators who poured countless man-hours into the search for one of the most-hunted suspects in the region's history. And it could bring long-awaited relief to dozens of victims, some of whom say their attacker continued to stalk them weeks after raping them.

"Thank goodness for the victims. I'd talked with most all of them over the years," retired Miami-Dade sex crimes detective Dave Simmons told the Herald. "They would call periodically to check on the progress of the case. It's good for them to have closure."