Greensburg man convicted in Shelby County – charges stemmed from allegations in the 1980’s

 1980s Shelby Stalker Convicted

Date of Release:  3-3-22 from the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office –

Steven Ray Hessler was convicted today after an 8-day jury trial of 2 counts of Rape, 6 counts of Unlawful Deviate Conduct, 7 counts of Burglary Resulting In Bodily Injury, 3 counts of Criminal Deviate Conduct, and one count of Robbery – each as a Class A Felony.  The charges stem from a series of home-invasion sexual assaults from 1982-1985.

Hessler had the residents of Shelby County on edge for several years with his daring night-time attacks – generally waking his victims in the middle of the night, wearing a ski mask or legging to cover his face, and holding a gun or knife.  Many of the victims were tied up – others were not – as he stole cash and other certain items before sexually assaulting the women.  In his final local assault, he struck a male victim several times with a gun, resulting in that victim being in a coma for months, and then a rehab facility for several more months, learning again to talk and to walk with a cain (though he fell daily, and for years now has been confined to a wheelchair).  The local attacks stopped in the late 1980s.

Hessler was generally very cautious, wiping down the scene and taking items that he had touched with him.  Fortunately, he left some DNA at one scene (though DNA was not then yet used for forensic investigations).  At the recommendation of retired Indiana State Trooper Mike Kolls (who worked with the original task force investigating the attacks), we sent some of the DNA to Parabon Nanolabs, who specializes in Geneological DNA Identification.  (Parabon also solved the Golden State Killer case with this technology).  Parabon sent back results that caused us to focus on Hessler and one other person.  Eventually, we were able to obtain Hessler’s DNA sample from an envelope he licked to send in a utility payment, and it matched the DNA at the scene.  We found that he had been convicted of a rape in Decatur County in the late 1980s (when our attacks stopped), and received a 20 year sentence.  (He was unfortunately released from the Department Of Corrections about 2 months before a requirement took effect that requires inmates to submit a DNA sample, or we would have had his DNA and a match years ago).

The prosecution was made more difficult because a previous task force had arrested and charged another local man with the first few of the attacks.  Further investigation confirmed his alibis for the evenings of certain attacks, as well as other information that led to dismissal of the case (but this still created an additional hurdle for us to address in this trial).  Another suspect came up in trial as well – Michael Kenyan (aka – the “Illinois Enema Bandit”), who had committed a series of attacks similar to ours in the late 1970s, and who had been released from prison before our attacks began (Frank Zappa even wrote a song about him, which was brought up during our trial).  Our office sent officers out to Arizona, where Kenyan lives now, to obtain DNA, interview Kenyan, and perform a forensic examination of his computer.

After receiving the DNA results matching Hessler to the DNA at one scene, we executed a search warrant at Hessler’s residence in the early morning hours on August 17, 2020, where we hit a bit of a gold mine.  We located photographs stolen from one victim and computers which showed that he had been tracking down 2 other victims (he had even downloaded a Google Earth streetview photo of one victim’s house in Georgia).  We also located certain coats that matched coats used, with ski masks in the pockets, and various specific items that matched items used in various of the attacks.

The most recent detectives to work (and solve) the investigation are Shelby County Sheriff’s Detective David Tilford and Indiana State Police Detective Paul Baker, but without several prior investigators doing things correctly, we would have still been unable to prove the case.

The biggest credit goes out to the victims, who bravely testified despite having received death threats during the attacks.  These attacks have had profound impacts on their lives – always fearful if someone looks at them, and living in a recurring state of fear.  I truly hope these verdicts will bring them some sense of closure.  Several of the victims attended the reading of the verdicts, and we thereafter shared some tear-filled hugs.  They are extremely happy with the convictions – knowing that they finally no longer have to live in fear of this dangerous, dangerous man.

I was assisted in the prosecution of the case by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Scott Spears and Deputy Prosecutor Brandon Robinson (and I couldn’t be more proud of them both).  It took everything the 3 of us had, plus the detectives and the coordinated assistance of many others) to complete the investigation and prosecution of this huge case, which had been investigated by various officers, agencies, and task forces throughout the years.  Coordinating the trial also proved to be quite a task, as we called 27 witnesses – some as many as 6 times, and whittled thousands of pieces of possible evidence down to just over 300 exhibits actually admitted.  Witnesses had to be flown in from as far as Florida and Georgia, as well as a Secret Service computer technician from the east coast.  

Hessler will be sentenced on April 1, 2022, at 10:00 am, at which time he faces up to 50 years for each offense.  I intend to seek a sentence sufficient to ensure that he dies in prison – never to hurt anyone again.

News Release by Brad Landwerlen, Shelby County Prosecuting Attorney

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