Gordon H. Coe, a retired Spokane newspaperman whose career and life were turned upside down when his son was accused and eventually convicted of being the "South Hill rapist," has died in Seattle from complications of a stroke.
Mr. Coe, 82, died Saturday. Services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at the Evergreen-Washelli Funeral Home, 11111 Aurora Ave. N.
Mr. Coe and his wife, Ruth, were a respected part of Spokane society in 1981 when their 34-year-old son Frederick, who later changed his name to Kevin, was arrested and accused of attacking a 51-year-old woman who was out jogging. His arrest in March 1981 brought to an end a spree of rape cases that eventually totaled 40 in the fashionable South Hill area of the city. Kevin Coe was charged in six rape cases and convicted in four. He is scheduled to be released from prison on Sept. 8, 2006.
Three months after his sentencing, Ruth Coe was accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill the judge and prosecutor. She eventually was convicted and was sentenced to a year in jail. She died in 1996 at the age of 75.
Mr. Coe was a lifelong resident of Washington state and a respected newspaperman in Spokane for more than 40 years. Twenty-six of those years were as The Spokane Daily Chronicle's city editor. In 1975, he was named managing editor. He stayed in that job until 1981, when he took a leave of absence after his son was charged with the rapes.
"He was knowledgeable about the city and its people," says
Chuck Rehberg, associate editor of The Spokesman-Review, who worked with Coe for about 13 years. "He'd lived here for decades and knew the people and the rhythm of life here. He was a quiet, respectful guy. Sometimes a city desk is a screaming place. He ran a more mild-mannered, factually based desk. He provided a lot of background and stories about people."
Mr. Coe retired about the time his wife went on trial.
Mr. Coe was born and raised in Spokane, where he excelled as a student and athlete. He was a graduate of Washington State University.
In February 1942, Mr. Coe joined the Army and was a veteran of World War II. During the war, he served as a liaison with the French resistance forces and participated in the invasion of North Africa. He was awarded 11 battle stars.
Throughout his family's problems, Mr. Coe remained loyal to his wife and son. He cared for his wife in the year leading up to her death and for the past 2 1/2 years lived in relative anonymity at the Edmonds Retirement Inn.
Besides his son, Mr. Coe is survived by a daughter, Kathleen. Remembrances may be made to the Edward R. Murrow Development Fund at WSU in Pullman.
Robert T. Nelson's phone message number is 206-464-2996. His e-mail address is: email@example.com