GREAT BEND, Kan. (KAKE) - Authorities in central Kansas have arrested a 68-year-old man in connection to the murder of a woman nearly 43 years ago.

The Barton County Sheriff’s Office said Steven Hanks was being held for second-degree murder in the January 1980 shooting death of 23-year-old Mary Robin Walter. The sheriff's office said Hanks was arrested Thursday in Oxford.

It was just before 7 p.m. on January 24, 1980 when the sheriff's office got the report of a homicide at the Nelson Trailer Park, which was near SW 40th Avenue and Anchor Way. The trailer park no longer exists. 

Investigators arrived on scene and found Walter's body. She lived at the residence and had been shot multiple times. She was married, had one child and was a nursing student at Barton County Community College.

Hanks, who was Walter's neighbor at the time of her death, was developed as a person of interest. But the case went cold. 

"Over the years, numerous detectives have looked at the case and were not able to obtain information that would assist in prosecution," Sheriff Brian Bellendir said in a release. "In April 2022, while recovering from Covid, Detective Sgt. Adam Hales of the Barton County Sheriff’s Office reopened the Mary Robin Walter homicide case. After taking a fresh look at the case, it became evident that some information had been initially overlooked and some had been added at a later date. This was unknown to the original investigators."

Sheriff Bellendir said that after reviewing the case with Sgt. Hales, he assigned the case to Detective Alex Lomas, Detective Bryan Volkel and Patrol Sgt. Travis Doze. Lieutenant David Paden supervised the operation.

“My group of detectives that I named worked very hard on this," Bellendir said. "This was a matter of the right people in the right place at the right time."

Bellendir said his office tracked down multiple people who had been involved in the case, and interviews were conducted as far away as the Pacific Northwest. 

Then in October, new evidence allowed the sheriff's office to submit the case to Barton County Attorney Levi Morris. An arrest warrant for Hanks was issued several weeks later. 

“This case has been open ever since I've been a law enforcement officer," Bellendir said. "I started with the sheriff's office in 1982. This has been an irritation for the sheriff's office that we've never been able to close this case.”

Hanks, a resident of Burden, was arrested in Oxford on Thursday. His bond was set at $500,000. 

"At 42 years and 10 months, we believe this is the oldest homicide arrest in the State of Kansas," Bellendir said. "It may be one the oldest homicides cleared by arrest in the United States. This also clears the last known homicide in a non-incorporated area under the jurisdiction of the Barton County Sheriff’s Office.

Bellendir thanked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Great Bend Police Department, Oxford Kansas Police Department, Cowley County Sheriff’s Office, Winfield Police Department, Burden Police Department and the Everett (Washington) Police Department. 

Kansas Department of Corrections records show Hanks served time in prison from 1983 to 1990 and then Wichita Work Release until his parole in August of 1991. His prior convictions include attempted rape and aggravated counts of burglary, robbery and battery. 

“I'm proud of the state of Kansas, that even the police departments and sheriff's offices that we don't normally deal with in southeast Kansas picked up the phone," Bellendir said. "They were right on it.”

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