Prosecutors: Envelope DNA linked man to cold case rapes, assaults

A man is being held in Shelbyville on a $20 million bond after he was linked to a series of sexual assaults in a central Indiana county more than 30 years ago by his DNA on an envelope for a utility bill payment, authorities said.

Steven Ray Hessler, 57, of Greensburg faces 24 charges including two counts of rape, nine counts of criminal deviate conduct and seven counts of burglary in connection with the attacks that occurred between 1982 and 1985, the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office said Tuesday.

Investigators used a DNA sample from a 1985 attack, a 1986 prison interview with one of Hessler’s associates and a March 2020 utility bill payment to narrow their focus to Hessler, court documents said.

Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen said not all of the victims were women.

“One man was severely beaten, one husband,” Landwerlen said. “He was tied up and beaten while the wife was also being assaulted. He suffered permanent disabilities.”

The case received a break when a detective asked prosecutors if they would agree to pay for samples to be sent to a company that uses the same sort of DNA testing that resulted in the capture of the Golden State Killer. Testing narrowed the case down to Hessler, linked to a DNA sample left at one scene. DNA from the utility bill envelope matched it.

Hessler is being held in the Shelby County Jail. He was appointed a public defender during his initial hearing Tuesday.

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