Suspect In Custody In Connection With 1980 Kansas Cold Case, Possibly ‘Oldest Homicide Arrest’ In State History

cold case suspect
Source: Barton County Sheriff’s Office

Dec. 12 2022, Published 2:09 p.m. ET

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Authorities in Kansas have made an arrest in connection with the cold case murder of a woman who was found dead in January 1980.

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According to Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir, the sheriff’s office obtained new evidence in the case in October and they were able to obtain an arrest warrant for the suspect, Steven L. Hanks, 68, of Burden, Kansas, KSN reported.

“At 42 years and 10 months, we believe this is the oldest homicide arrest in the state of Kansas,” Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said, noting there are now currenly no uncleared murder cases in the county.

On Jan. 24, 1980, the body of Mary Robin Walter, a nursing student and married mother of one daughter, was found in her trailer in Great Bend. She had been shot multiple times.

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Sheriff Bellendir said investigators at the time developed Hanks as a person of interest in the Walter’s murder but the case went cold until it was reopened last spring.

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“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,” Bellendir said, adding, “This was unknown to the original investigators.”

According to authorities, Hanks lived near Walters when she was killed.

Citing court documents, KSN reported Hanks has a criminal history that includes allegations he broke into a coworker’s home around a year after Walter’s slaying and was “kissing and fondling her.”

He again broke into the woman’s home four months later and was convicted of criminal trespass, battery, and attempted rape, among other charges.

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Hanks was booked into the Barton County jail on a second-degree murder charge and was being held in lieu of $500,000 bond.

Bellendir said he was proud of the officers who worked on clearing the cold case, explaining that “these are long, complicated investigations and are tedious.”

Pamela Walter Cooper, the victim’s daughter, told KSN that while she forgives Hanks, others who might have benefited from news of an arrest in the case are no longer alive.


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