INDIANAPOLIS — A Greensburg man found guilty of a string of sexual assaults between 1982-85 was sentenced Friday in Shelby County to 650 years in prison.
Steven Ray Hessler of Greensburg was convicted in March on 19 separate felony charges. For each count, he faced a maximum of 50 years in prison. The charges included 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. All are Class A felonies.
The judge set Hessler’s sentence to 650 years, as some of the sentences will happen concurrently.
"I've had a lot of victories over the years. This was is definitely one of the best," Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen said.
Multiple victims testified during the sentencing hearing about the trauma caused by Hessler’s actions and his continued actions since his attacks. Multiple victims explained their fear of Hessler returning to kill them in the aftermath of his attacks.
"The victims suffered for so long, and they wondered if someone looked at them in the store, if a car drove by slow, if a car drove by and honked, anything out of the norm. 'Is this him? Is he coming to get me? Is he going to follow through with his threats?' They wondered about that," Landwerlen said.
During trial, the prosecution explained Hessler attacked his victims in the middle of the night with his face covered by a ski mask or legging and stole cash or other items while armed with a gun or knife. He sexually assaulted his female victims and in many cases tied them up.
In one instance, Hessler struck a male victim with a gun, leaving the man in a coma for several months.
Hessler was caught by investigators after years of being careful. Investigators were able obtain a sample of Hessler's DNA from an envelope he licked to send a utility payment. It was then matched with that obtained from the scene of the attack.
"The DNA match got us into his house and into his computers and into his Digital media and so on and that's what he called a mountain of evidence," Landwerlen said.
Police executed a search warrant on Hessler's home in August 2020 and discovered photographs stolen from a victim and computers that showed he had been tracking down two other victims. Police also found clothing and other items that matched the description of attire and objects used in the attacks, including coats with ski masks in the pockets.
Hessler's attorney, Bryan L. Cook, said Hessler plans to appeal issues raised during trial.
Cook provided the following statement:
This was one of the most unusual cases probably any defense attorney on the planet could ever encounter for a laundry list of reasons. The facts involved seem more like something out of a movie than real life. It involved 80-100 suspects ranging from Hessler’s cousin (previously indicted for 4 of the attacks), police officers, doctors, pharmacists, and even Michael Kenyon who was the inspiration for Frank Zappa’s song, “The Illinois Enema Bandit”. Several potentially viable suspects were ruled out by DNA although 8 of 10 victims were not DNA cases — which was a central issue in the case. Many physical descriptions by victims of the attacker did not match Hessler’s age, build, weight, eye color, or education.
Several psychics were involved, one parading through a crime scene before police even processed the scene. Potentially critical evidence from some scenes was lost or destroyed over the years. Hessler intends to appeal several crucial issues relating to the case including the initial capture of a secondary DNA standard as well as several colorable issues raised during trial including multiple motions for mistrial which were denied.