Indiana man Steven Ray Hessler, 58, was sentenced to 650 years in prison this week after DNA evidence linked him to a series of violent sex crimes in the ‘80s.
As the New York Times reports, police were able to link Hessler to the string of crimes 35 years after his last known attack in Shelby County.
Investigators were able to link him to attacks that took place from 1982 to 1985, on seven women, a 16-year-old girl, and two men.
According to police, he broke into people’s houses at night with either a knife or gun and then tied up and sexually tortured his victims.
The smoking gun came for investigators when DNA from an envelope of a water bill that Hessler licked matched DNA from his last known attack on Aug. 17, 1985.
Earlier this year, he was found guilty 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.
“Steven Ray Hessler is one of the evilest, dangerous, sadistic predators that I’ve had the pleasure of prosecuting,” said Shelby County prosecutor James B. Landwerlen. “These attacks have had profound impacts on their [the victim’s lives.”
His victims said that he would come into their homes and then force them to perform sexual acts, threatening them with violence if they did not do what he demanded. Before leaving the scene, he would sometimes unplug their phones and steal some of their money.
In some cases, he’d also take photos to use as blackmail against his victims under the threat he’d kill them if they reported him to the police.
Hessler plans to appeal the conviction, his lawyer Bryan L. Cook said. “Several potentially viable suspects were ruled out by DNA, although eight of 10 victims were not DNA cases — which was a central issue in the case,” Cook said.
“Many physical descriptions by victims of the attacker did not match Hessler’s age, build, weight, eye colour or education.”
Throughout the course of the case, Cook said there’s been upwards of 80 suspects. In 1990, though, Hessler was convicted of rape and spent 10 years in prison.