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Suspect Steven Hanks arrested in 1980 murder case
Law enforcement claim 'cold case' has been solved
A Great Bend Tribune file photo from 1980 shows the front of the home where Mary Robin Walter was found murdered. The Barton County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday the arrest of a suspect.

The Barton County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a suspect in the 1980 homicide of Mary Robin Walter that occurred on Jan. 24 of that year. The suspect, Steven L. Hanks, age 68 of Burden, Kansas, was being transported to Barton County, Sheriff Brian Bellendir announced around 6:38 p.m. Thursday.

Hanks was arrested at Oxford, Kansas. 

There will be a joint press conference with the Sheriff’s Office, Barton County Attorney’s Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on Friday. It will be held at 11 a.m. on the first-floor lobby of the Barton County Courthouse, 1400 Main St., Great Bend.

According to stories from the Great Bend Tribune in 1980, 23-year-old Mary R. Walter was shot at least nine times with a small-caliber weapon in her trailer home at Nelson Mobile Home Park, just east of the Great Bend Municipal Airport entrance sometime during the day on Thursday, Jan. 24, 1980.

Douglas Walter, 24, the victim’s husband, found his wife dead in the back bedroom where the killing occurred when he returned home from work at 6:45 p.m. that day. He had left for work before 8 a.m.

Authorities estimated the time of the shooting to be between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Mary Walter had not attended her nursing class at Barton County Community College.

There were no signs of a struggle, sexual assault, robbery or forced entry, authorities said at the time.

A .22-caliber pistol was found at the home.

The couple had a daughter, Pamala, who was 6 years old at the time. She was at a babysitter’s home and school during the day. 

Prior conviction

In March 1983, Hanks was convicted of felonies attempted rape, aggravated burglary, aggravated battery and aggravated robbery in connection with a Thanksgiving Day incident in 1981, and misdemeanor criminal trespassing that took place in July of the same year, according to Tribune reports at the time.

Hanks faced trial on those charges in December 1982. But, a deadlocked jury resulted in the second proceeding.

He appealed his convictions shortly after his trial. But, in January 1985, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Hanks’ conviction on the charges.

According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, he was paroled in August 1991 and discharged from parole in December 1993.