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Shelby County arrest in serial rape cold case, bond set at $20,000,000

The prosecutor said Steven Ray Hessler is connected to a series of home invasion sexual assaults in Shelbyville and Shelby County between 1982 and 1985.

GREENSBURG, Ind. — The Shelby County prosecutor is preparing charges against Steven Ray Hessler, 57, of Greensburg in a serial sexual assault cold case. Hessler, who lives in Greensburg, was arrested Monday.

The prosecutor said Hessler is connected to a series of home invasion sexual assaults in Shelbyville and Shelby County between 1982 and 1985. There were a reported 10 victims in seven different incidents. Some of the incidents happened while the women were home alone and others while a husband or children were present. In one case, the suspect beat the husband of one of the victims so severely as to cause permanent disabilities.

  • Aug. 14, 1982 — Woman awoken after a man entered her home through an unlocked door. He had a knife and took money from her purse. He threatened if she didn't perform sexual acts, he'd hurt her young daughters. He also asked her to put on sexy clothing and assaulted her. The man said he was paid by her ex-husband to do this to her. If she reported it to police, he said he would come back and get her daughters when they were coming home from school.
  • Nov. 1, 1982 — Woman awakened after a man forced his way into her home. Her son was asleep in the bed next to her. Man held a knife to her throat. The man claimed he was paid money to come there and hurt her. He said if she didn't comply he would hurt her son. The man made her put on sexy clothing before assaulting her. He told her if she called police he would be back. 
  • Dec. 16, 1982 — Two women were sexually assaulted, a mother and a daughter. The daughter was awake when a man entered her room holding a knife. He then forced her to perform sexual acts. The suspect also forced the mother to perform sexual acts and claimed he was a police officer. He tried to take pictures of the victims, but there wasn't film in their camera.
  • Feb. 2, 1983 — The suspect approached a man outside his home and forced them inside with a gun. He forced the man and a woman in the home to perform sex acts on each other. He told them he was paid to do this to them. The suspect also reportedly photographed the two victims and left with some cash.
  • Feb. 18, 1984 — A woman was in the shower when a man came in with a gun. The suspect asked the woman if she knew about his other assaults and bragged police arrested the wrong man. He told her if she cooperated, he would never come back. He photographed the woman wearing sexy clothing. The man threatened to harm her if she reported the incident. He referenced that she served him food at a restaurant one previous night. He left after taking a small amount of cash.
  • Nov. 25, 1984 — A man forced entry into a home and had a gun on him. He woke up the victim's daughter and forced the mother to perform sex acts. He took a small amount of cash and left.
  • Aug. 17, 1985 —  A man forced entry to a home and woke up to victims at gunpoint. He told them he'd kill them if they didn't do what he said and demanded money. The woman told the suspect she had a heart condition and faked a heart attack. The suspect then beat the male victim over the head with his gun causing permanent brain damage and physical disabilities. He then took the female victim to the garage and forced her to perform sex acts. He then threatened to come back and kill them if they went to police. Investigators were able to recover DNA evidence from the garage. 

On July 10, 2019, a task force used a genetic testing at a company called Parabon to potentially determine a suspect. The DNA testing found the suspect would have either been Steven Ray Hessler or his brother. Police determined Hessler lived in the Greensburg area at the time of the crimes. 

On Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, investigators conducted two search warrants, and the prosecutor said additional DNA testing confirmed Hessler as the suspect. The prosecutor said it is a trillion to one chance it would be someone else's DNA.

Credit: WTHR
The Greensburg home of Steven Ray Hessler.

Hessler is facing multiple charges for rape, robbery, deviate conduct, criminal confinement and others.

All of the victims but one have been notified of the arrest and are willing to help with the prosecution of the case according to the prosecutor. Hessler's bond was set at $20,000,000.

WATCH LIVE: The Shelby County prosecutor is announcing charges in a serial sexual assault cold case from the '80s.

Posted by WTHR-TV on Tuesday, August 18, 2020