HELBY COUNTY, Ind. (TCD) -- A 59-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of rape, burglary, and other charges in March.
On April 1, Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen announced in a Facebook post that a judge sentenced Steven Ray Hessler to 650 years in prison about a month after a jury found him guilty of two counts of rape, six counts of unlawful deviate conduct, seven counts of burglary resulting in bodily injury, three counts of criminal deviate conduct, and one count of robbery. The crimes reportedly occurred between 1982 and 1985.
According to Landwerlen, Hessler "terrorized" Shelby County by "breaking into several homes in the middle of the night while armed and wearing a mask, and attacking, raping, binding, threatening, and sexually torturing several local women." One victim was reportedly a 16-year-old girl.
Hessler reportedly sometimes tied up his victims and stole cash before "sexually brutalizing the women."
One male was also badly injured as a result of Hessler’s attacks. Hessler reportedly hit the male victim several times with a gun after handcuffing and hog-tying him. The man was in a coma for months and had to relearn how to talk. He is now bound to a wheelchair.
Landwerlen said Hessler was convicted of rape in the late 1980s in another county and was sentenced to 20 years, but he was reportedly released about two months before a requirement set in for inmates to submit DNA samples. Hessler was linked to the case using DNA evidence and genealogical DNA information, including help from a former Indiana State Trooper who solved the Golden State Killer case.
On Aug. 17, 2020, investigators executed a search warrant at Hessler’s home and "hit a bit of a gold mine" in terms of evidence. They found photographs that had been stolen from one of the victims, coats with ski masks in the pockets, enema bags, women’s underwear, and computers that reportedly showed he had been cyberstalking a previous victim.
In his statement about the sentencing, Landwerlen wrote, "Steven Ray Hessler is one of the most evil, dangerous, sadistic predators that I’ve had the pleasure of prosecuting in my 30-plus-year career. He derived great pleasure from his unnecessarily brutal methods of terrorizing and sexually torturing his victims."
He continued, "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."