A man was linked to a series of brutal sexual assaults in the 1980s by DNA on a utility bill. He was just sentenced to 650 years in prison.
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, prosecutors said.
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.
Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen said that Hessler also struck a male victim with a gun, sending the man into a coma for months. The victim “for years now has been confined to a wheelchair,” Landwerlen said.
The prosecution was made more difficult, Landwerlen said, because a previous task force had arrested and charged another local man with the first few attacks in 1983. In an odd turn of events, that man turned out to be Hessler’s cousin, he said.
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. Testing narrowed down the case to Hessler, linked to a DNA sample left at one scene. DNA from the utility bill envelope matched it.
Authroties executed a search warrant at Hessler’s home in the early morning hours on August 17, 2020, and “hit upon a gold mine,” Landwerlen said. Investigators found photographs stolen from one victim, and computers which showed that he had been tracking down four other victims.
“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,” Landwerlen said. “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.”
Defense attorney Bryan Cook in closing arguments said, “It’s a hot mess of a case the state has.”