A Senior Citizen Was Arrested In 40-Year-Old Cold Case Of Kansas Nursing Student

Steven Hanks was initially a suspect in the 1980 killing of Mary Robin Walter, but it took police until December 2022 to arrest him.

December 20, 2022
Mary Robin Walter, pictured here smiling, was fatally shot to death on Jan. 24, 1980.

Steven Hanks was initially a suspect in the 1980 killing of Mary Robin Walter, but it took police until December 2022 to arrest him.

Photo by: Barton County Sheriff’s Office

Barton County Sheriff’s Office

Recently obtained information allowed Kansas authorities to release a 68-year-old man whom they say killed his own neighbor in 1980.

On January 24, 1980, 23-year-old nursing student Mary Robin Walter was found dead in her trailer in Great Bend, Kansas, a small town about 100 miles northwest of Wichita. The young mother had been shot multiple times, according to CBS News, but there were no arrests made in the case.

There had been a suspect — Steven Lawrence Hanks — in the early days of the investigation, according to Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir, but there reportedly wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him. Bellendir, who became an officer in Barton County in 1982, told PEOPLE that the case had haunted the department for the last four decades.

In April 2022, a detective decided to take a fresh look at the case and found that there was some “overlooked information” as well as some new details about the case. Re-interviewing witnesses as well as the discovery of brand new evidence in October allowed the officers to submit the case for prosecution.

That evidence allowed officers to arrest Hanks, now 68 years old, and charge him with second degree murder on Dec. 8. The homicide was reportedly Kansas’s oldest cold case.

This is not Hanks’s only brush with the law. He was arrested in 1981 and charged with aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, and rape, according to records from the Kansas Department of Corrections. He was paroled in 1991 and on probation until December 1993.

Hanks is reportedly being held on a $500,000 bond.

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