Southeast Indiana man gets 650-year sentence for 1980s rapes

April 1, 2022 GMT

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A man linked to a series of sexual assaults in central Indiana more than 30 years ago by his DNA on an envelope for a utility bill payment was sentenced Friday to 650 years in prison.

Steven Ray Hessler, 59, of Greensburg, was convicted March 3 of 19 felony charges for crimes against 10 victims between 1982 and 1985. The charges included two counts of rape, six counts of unlawful deviate conduct and three counts of criminal deviate conduct and one count of robbery.

Investigators said Hessler, masked and armed, would break into homes in the middle of the night and would rape, bind and sexually torture his victims. He eluded authorities by wiping down the crime scenes and stealing items he had touched.

The case received a break in 2020 when a detective asked prosecutors if they would pay for samples to be sent to a company that uses the same sort of DNA testing that resulted in the capture of the Golden State Killer. Testing narrowed down the case to Hessler, linked to a DNA sample left at one scene. DNA from the utility bill envelope matched it.

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“Steven Ray Hessler is one of the most evil, dangerous, sadistic predators that I’ve had the pleasure of prosecuting in my 30+ year career. He derived great pleasure from his unnecessarily brutal methods of terrorizing and sexually torturing his victims. I promised the victims early-on that my goal would be that he go to prison the rest of his life, and all involved are very happy that we have achieved that goal,” Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen said in a statement.

Defense attorney Bryan Cook in closing arguments said, “It’s a hot mess of a case the state has.”