A Kansas man has been charged in the 1980 shooting death of a 23-year-old neighbor after investigators who reexamined her death turned up new evidence, authorities said.
Kansas Bureau of Investigation officers arrested 68-year-old Steven Hanks, of Burden, on Thursday on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of Mary Robin Walter, who was a wife, mother and nursing school student when she was killed, Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said at a news conference Friday. He is jailed on $500,000 bond and doesn’t have an attorney, according to court records.
“At 42 years and 10 months, we believe this is the oldest homicide arrest in the state of Kansas,” Bellendir said.
Bellendir said Detective Sgt. Adam Hales decided in April to reopen the investigation into the Jan. 24, 1980, killing, which happened at a trailer park near the airport in Great Bend, a city of about 15,000 residents in central Kansas. Walter had been shot multiple times.
“After taking a fresh look at the case, it became evident that some of the information had been initially overlooked and some had been added at a later date,” the sheriff said. “This was unknown to the original investigators.”
Bellendir directed two additional officers to join the investigation. In October, new evidence was discovered, though authorities declined to disclose it.
Bellendir said Hanks was investigated as a suspect immediately after the shooting, “but the case went cold.” He didn’t disclose a possible motive for the killing.
Hanks spent time in prison for another crime. He was arrested in 1981 and charged with rape, battery, robbery and burglary. He was sentenced in 1983 and discharged in 1993, according to online records from the Kansas Department of Corrections.
In response to the break in the case, Mary Robin Walter’s niece, Leslie Schrag, issued a statement on behalf of the family, saying in part, “We are grateful for detectives’ efforts to bring Robin’s murderer to justice.”
“Robin was truly beautiful inside and out,” Schrag said. “This world was robbed of her presence, and we will never know how that has shaped our lives. [Friday’s] news is bittersweet. Many of those who knew Robin are gone. Her parents, husband and a sister will not get to share in our collective relief that Robin’s case will have a conclusion.”
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