SHELBY COUNTY, Ind. – A man convicted in a string of home break-ins and rape cases around Shelby County in the eighties will likely never be free again.

A judge sentenced Steven Ray Hessler to 650 years in prison for his 19 convictions. The sentence includes 50 years for each count, with six of the sentences being served concurrently.

During Friday’s emotional sentencing hearing, eight victims testified along with the sister of one victim.

“The victims suffered for so long and they wondered constantly if someone looked at them in the store, if a car drove by slow, if a car drove by and honked, anything out of the norm ‘is this him? is he coming to get me,'” Shelby County Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen said.

In court, the judge described Hessler’s crimes as “monstrous” and “horrific.”

Prosecutor Landwerlen dubbed Hessler the “Coward Sadist”

“He’s a sadist because he loves getting pleasure from hurting other people,” Landwerlen said. “He’s a coward because he would only do it when he was armed.”

The crimes haunted the Shelby County area for decades. Hessler, investigators said, was responsible for a series of home invasions and sexual assaults committed in Shelbyville and other parts of Shelby County between 1982 and 1985.

For years, residents lived in fear because of the nighttime attacks. Victims were awakened in the middle of the night by a man with a ski mask or leggings concealing his face. He would then force them at gunpoint or knifepoint to perform sex acts and steal money and valuables.

“Steven Ray Hessler is one of the most evil, cruel, sadistic predators that I’ve had the pleasure of prosecuting over 30 years,” Landwerlen said.

There were also accounts that the man threatened to hurt or kill children if his victims didn’t comply.

The attacks stopped in the late 1980s, but the case remained unsolved for decades. DNA evidence linked Hessler to the crimes. Investigators realized the attacks had stopped because he’d been convicted of rape in Decatur County in the late 1980s and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

While Hessler had been careful to cover his tracks during his attacks—wiping down the scenes and taking any items he may have touched—he slipped up and left bodily fluid at the scene of one of the assaults.

He was matched to his 1980s DNA after investigators collected a sample from an envelope Hessler had licked and sent in with a utility payment.

Other evidence linked him to the crimes, including pictures stolen from one of the victims that were found in his possession. Police found evidence on his computer that he’d searched for some of his victims.

A jury convicted Hessler in March following an eight-day trial. The charges included 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.

“[Hessler] is where he needs to be and he needs to stay in jail until it’s time to put him in the ground,” Prosecutor Landwerlen said.

The judge appointed Hessler a public defender in case he choses to pursue any appeals.

Hessler will remain in the Shelby County Jail until he’s transferred to state prison.