PHOENIX - Twenty-two years after Debra Shipton was found murdered in her Mesa apartment, her suspected killer has been charged with the crime. Raymond H. Hanley (D.O.B 1/27/1953) faces charges of first degree murder, burglary; kidnapping and arson of an occupied structure after homicide detectives were able to link him to the crime through forensic DNA analysis. Hanley is currently serving a 30-year sentence for an unrelated 1994 conviction for kidnapping and sexual assault.
“Contemporary forensic science and DNA analysis is allowing us to reach back in time and identify perpetrators of crimes who most likely falsely believed they had escaped justice,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “This case is the latest example of our continuing partnership with local law enforcement, this time the Mesa Police Department, to bring justice long overdue to victims,” he added.
On October 13, 1993, the Mesa Fire Department responded to a reported apartment fire in the 2000 block of North Olive. A bystander was able to put out most of the fire with a nearby garden hose by the time fire fighters arrived. Evidence at the scene indicated the fire had been deliberately set. During the course of a subsequent arson investigation, a deceased female later identified as Debra Shipton was discovered on a bed in the master bedroom. Her hands and feet were bound and she had six gunshot wounds in her back. Despite an extensive investigation, all leads were ultimately exhausted and the case became inactive.
Less than a year later, on March 1, 1994, a woman reported to Mesa Police that she had been on her way home when she had car trouble and pulled to the side of the road. An unknown male arrived and offered to help her but then forced her at gunpoint into his motorhome where he handcuffed and bound her and then sexually assaulted her. She was released after the incident and later identified Raymond Hanley in a photo lineup as the man who had assaulted her. Police located Hanley and searched his motorhome where they found a gun and other incriminating evidence. He was subsequently charged and convicted for kidnapping, sexual abuse and sexual assault and sentenced to a 30-year prison term.
On May 5, 2009, a match was found between a DNA sample submitted by Hanley at the time of his incarceration and DNA recovered from a cigarette butt found at the scene of the 1993 homicide. Hanley was interviewed by detectives in prison and admitted knowing Debra Shipton but denied killing her. The case was then assigned to a cold case detective who re-interviewed Hanley and developed additional information that implicated him in Shipton’s murder.
If convicted, Hanley faces a possible sentence of natural life. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty.