Steven Ray Hessler’s destiny was determined by DNA found on an envelope. Hessler was accused of violently raping seven women, a 16-year-old girl, and two men in Shelby County, Indiana, between 1982 and 1985, according to USA Today.
The rapist entered into people’s homes at night with a pistol or a knife, woke them up, then tied them up and sexually abused them until they were unconscious. During his horrible assaults, he often donned a large coat and a ski mask, as well as leggings to conceal his face.
One of the victims was a child aged 16. In a subsequent incident, a male victim was handcuffed and hog-tied before being struck with a handgun, putting him in a coma for months and forcing him to rely on a wheelchair.
Police searched for the perpetrator for years without making any significant progress. According to Brad Landwerlen, the prosecuting attorney of Shelby, the search for the suspects and their prosecution were made more difficult by the fact that a previous task force had arrested and prosecuted another local man in 1983 in connection with a number of the assaults. Strangely enough, the guy who was wrongfully charged happened to be Hessler’s cousin.
The perpetrator went to considerable lengths to ensure that no evidence was left at the crime sites, including wiping off surfaces after performing the crimes in question. Detectives, on the other hand, were able to get some DNA evidence at one of the scenes. Despite the fact that DNA was not being utilized in criminal investigations at the time, the crucial evidence was kept safe.
After a year of investigation, detectives turned over the DNA evidence to Parabon Nanolabs, the same organization that helped to apprehend the Golden State Killer and other notorious offenders in the past. Similarly to the prior instances, they analyzed the DNA and compared it to a massive quantity of genetic data that had been gathered by commercial genealogy websites in order to determine a match. The results of their investigation led to a small number of persons who may have left DNA at the murder site, one of whom was Hessler.
In a statement, the prosecuting said: “Steven Ray Hessler is one of the most evil, dangerous, sadistic predators that I’ve had the pleasure of prosecuting. 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.”
It was necessary for the detectives to get a new sample of DNA from Hessler in order to corroborate their findings. He licked the inside of an envelope to mail in a water bill payment after detectives served his his utility company with a subpoena. According to Landwerlen, the DNA on the envelope matched the DNA from the murder site exactly as they had anticipated, confirming their suspicions. The prosecution went on to say that a second DNA sample was extracted straight from Hessler’s cheek to prove the relationship.
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