Daniel Messel, the man accused of killing Hannah Wilson, an Indiana University student, was found guilty by a jury Wednesday, New York Daily News is reporting. Wilson was found bloodied and beaten on an isolated field outside Bloomington, Indiana, April 24, 2015.
His conviction carries between 45 and 65 years in prison. Robin Wilson, mother of the 22-year-old student who was murdered just weeks before her graduation, was disappointed with the verdict.
“He still gets to breathe, it’s not fair.”
Daniel Messel will be sentenced September 22.
An autopsy showed that Wilson was struck in the head repeatedly and that the back of her head had been cracked open. The 51-year-old Indiana man was charged with bludgeoning the young woman to death the same day that his cell phone was found close to her body.
Investigators had followed the clumsy bloody trail he left behind back to his house. They found the print worker with a garbage bag of bloody clothes and his Kia Sportage car also dotted with blood. Messel was found with scratch marks on his arm as well.
Investigations revealed that the 51-year-old, who lived in a trailer with his father, had a history of violence. He had been arrested three times for violence against women, including one against his grandmother, whom he allegedly beat so much that he broke bones in her face. He was jailed in 1996 for battery and was on probation for six years after he was released three years later.
A friend of Hannah Wilson testified in court, describing her as a friendly and lively girl with plenty of hope for the future. The friend said Hannah was excited over writing her final exam, and that night, partied at a local bar with friends. Investigators still have not been able to prove how Daniel Messel got to the senior college student that day.
The friend testified that Wilson was put in a taxi cab around 12:45 a.m. The cab driver told the jury that he watched the psychology major step onto the sidewalk of her Bloomington residence before he drove away. A roommate said she heard Hannah unlock her door around 1 a.m., but did not hear it shut. The next morning, she was nowhere to be found. Her purse and cellphone were still in her bedroom.
Wilson, originally from Fishers, Indiana, was the one who provided the big break for investigators. She had fought for her life like a wounded tigress. It was in the struggle that her killer accidentally dropped his cellphone at the crime scene.
Defense attorney Dorie Maryan had tried to make a case for her client, arguing that the police were too quick to hang Messel as a suspect. She argued that they slacked in exploring other possibilities, including a cigarette butt at the crime scene which they refused to test for DNA. Prosecutors insisted that the evidence was damning, with hair and blood that matched the deceased found on the clothes and in the car of their primary suspect.
The Wilson family struggled to get through the unbearable testimony of images that showed Hannah’s battered head and dark hair spattered with blood. They watched in agony as prosecutors held the gray shirt she wore on the fateful night, splotched in bright red. Robin Wilson said she needed to be strong for her daughter.
“I needed to be here for Hannah. She had no voice anymore.”
Daniel Messel leaving the courtroom after hearing his guilty verdict and being found a habitual offender. pic.twitter.com/R1RdHbKj6Y— IndianaDailyStudent (@idsnews) August 10, 2016
When the verdict was read, there was no reaction from former print worker Messel. He remained stern-faced and silent. Prosecutors say his conviction was crucial for public safety, harping on the catalogue of violent and predatory behavior that he showed for decades. Indiana University expressed their views on the verdict.
“Though the memory of Hannah’s tragic loss will remain with us forever, we are grateful that justice has been served with this verdict and hope that Hannah’s family and loved ones can finally find some degree of closure.”
Police are now investigating if there is a Messel connection with the disappearance of another Indiana University student, Lauren Spierer. The 20-year-old vanished after partying with friends too in the same area. Her body has not been recovered, and Daniel Messel was never charged.
[Image via Brown County Sheriff’s Department]