Crime Watch 8

Serial rapist sentenced to 650 years for crimes in 1980s

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A man who repeatedly broke into homes and raped women in the 1980s has finally been sentenced.

Steven Ray Hessler of Greensburg received a prison sentence of 650 years in the case. Hessler was convicted of 20 counts including rape, deviant conduct and burglary. The judge applied the maximum sentence of 50 years to every count.

The judge called the crimes committed by Hessler monstrous.

Hessler, 59, terrorized women in Shelby County in the 1980s, sexually assaulting 10 victims from 1982 to 1985. Investigators said Hessler, masked and armed, would break into houses in the middle of the night and would rape, bind and sexually torture his victims.

Hessler managed to elude authorities by wiping down the crime scene and stealing items he had touched.

During many of the attacks he also took pictures of his victims. He used those pictures to keep his victims from coming forward with threats of blackmail. He threatened further violence against the families of his victims, and, in one case, he threatened to kill children who were at home during the attack. 

In the late 1980s, he was convicted of rape in another county, receiving a 20-year sentence.

He was released from prison just two months before inmates were required to submit DNA samples.

However, DNA was recovered from case in Shelby County. The sample was sent to Parabon Nanolabs, the lab that identified the Golden State Killer. A sample from Hessler recovered from a licked envelope matched the DNA left at the scene.

Greensburg was finally arrested in 2020.

He was convicted on March 3.

Hessler on Friday was escorted from the courtroom back to jail. Hessler didn’t have a word to say as deputies marched him to a waiting cell in the Shelby County jail. The county prosecutor, Brad Landwerlen, didn’t mince words.

Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen said in a statement, “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.”

When his victims testified Hessler showed no remorse. “The judge called him out on it and talked about how he enjoyed … he seemed to enjoy hearing them talk about the pains when the victims testified,” Landwerlen said.