80-year sentence upheld for man convicted of killing IU student

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The Indiana Court of Appeals declined to revise the 80-year sentence handed down by a Brown County judge for the murder of an Indiana University student two years ago.

Daniel E. Messel was convicted of murdering Hannah Wilson in April 2015. Wilson had just finished final exams for her undergraduate degree when she went out celebrating with friends. Her friends decided she was too intoxicated to go to the bar and put her in a taxi to go home. Surveillance video showed Messel’s car followed the taxi.

Wilson’s body was found the next day in a parking lot in Brown County. An autopsy showed she had died after being struck multiple times with a blunt object in the head. Messel’s cell phone was found at the scene. He was later arrested while carrying a garbage bag with clothing that contained Wilson’s DNA. Her hair, blood and DNA were found on the inside and outside of Messel’s car.

Evidence at Messel’s trial was introduced to show he once owned a mag flashlight, although no murder weapon had been identified. It was allowed into evidence over Messel’s objection. He was convicted in August 2016 and sentenced to 60 years on the murder conviction and 20 years for being a habitual offender.

The Court of Appeals in its opinion assumed for argument’s sake that the admission of the flashlight evidence was erroneous. But Judge John Baker noted all of the independent evidence of Messel’s guilt, including his cell phone in the parking lot and surveillance video of his vehicle.

“Given this overwhelming independent evidence of Messel’s guilty, we find there is no substantial likelihood that the evidence related to his past ownership of a mag light contributed to the conviction,” Baker wrote. “In other words, any error was harmless.”

The judges upheld the aggregate 80-year sentence, noting how Messel preyed upon an intoxicated young woman, bludgeoned her to death, and then “dumped her body as if it were a piece of trash in a vacant lot alongside a road in rural Brown County. … Nothing about the appalling nature of this offense renders his sentence inappropriate,” Baker wrote in Daniel E. Messel v. State of Indiana, 07A01-1610-CR-2425.


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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: Here are the two research papers: 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.