BARTON COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Nearly 43 years after a Great Bend woman was found shot to death, her suspected killer is behind bars. KSN spoke with the victim’s daughter to get her reaction.
Mary Robin Walter‘s daughter, Pamela, says that although there is finally an arrest, she doesn’t feel any different today. She already forgave the suspect years ago.
“I already knew who did it. I knew that he wasn’t convicted of it, but we knew who did it. We knew it was Steven Hanks, the neighbor,” said Pamela Walter Cooper.
That man is now in custody on suspicion of second-degree murder for the death of the 23-year-old on Jan. 24, 1980.
“I blocked a lot of it out because knowing how many times she was shot. I had nightmares as a child up until the age of 12,” said Pamela.
Pamela was only 5 years old at the time.
“My dad is the one that found her. And my dreams it was me, at the age I was at that time,” said Pamela.
Hanks was originally a person of interest in the case. Despite numerous interviews with witnesses and leads followed, the case went cold.
Fast forward to April 2022.
“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. This was unknown to the original investigators,” said Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir at a news conference Friday morning.
In October 2022, new evidence was found. It was enough to submit to the prosecutor and get an arrest warrant.
“A lot of investigators have tried to close this case, and we were unable to at that time to get the information we needed. My group of detectives that I named worked very hard on this. This was a matter of right people in right place at the right time,” said Sherriff Bellendir.
Nearly 43 years after Mary’s death, an arrest was finally made.
“I think my dad would be relieved,” said Pamela. “I just hope that he (the suspect) is sorry for what he’s done that he’s remorseful. But even if he’s not, he can’t change my heart as I forgave him a long time ago.”
Pamela still wears her mother’s wedding ring, holding onto happy memories like when she taught her how to brush her teeth.
As for Hanks, he made his first appearance in court on Friday, Dec. 9. He is being held on a $500,000 bond.