INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday, an Indiana State Police Detective and two members of the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office were recognized by Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter with the Department’s Outstanding Criminal Investigation Award for their work on several cold cases dating back to the early to mid-1980s, which ultimately led to an arrest in August of 2020 and a conviction this past March resulting in a 650-year prison sentence.
Between August 1982 and August 1985 there were a series of eight home invasions that included rape, unlawful deviate conduct, robbery, and battery which all occurred in Shelby County. As a result, a joint investigative task force was formed consisting of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, the Shelbyville Police Department, and the Indiana State Police. Although multiple leads were pursued, the original task force was unable to solve the investigation at that time.
In May 2002, Indiana State Police Detective Paul Baker was asked to review all the evidence in the above-stated incidents that might be eligible to be forensically examined using new technology. In 2004, a new task force, which included Baker was formed to develop new leads to follow.
In July 2019, in an effort to seek out new, available technology, the task force contacted Parabon NanoLabs who specialize in Genealogical DNA Identification. Based on information obtained from Parabon and a continued, relentless investigation, Steven Ray Hessler of Greensburg, Indiana was arrested in August of 2020.
In March of this year, Hessler was convicted in a jury trial in the Shelby Circuit Court on 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. He was sentenced to 650 years in prison on April 1st of this year.
Recognized for their efforts by Superintendent Carter were Baker, Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen, and Shelby County Deputy Prosecutor Brandon Robinson. Shelby County Sheriff’s Detective David Tilford was to be recognized but could not attend the presentation.