A jury found a man guilty of murder Wednesday in the beating death of an Indiana University student two weeks before she was due to graduate.
About five hours after beginning deliberations, the jury returned the verdict against Daniel Messel of Bloomington in the April 2015 slaying of 22-year-old Hannah Wilson of Fishers, an Indianapolis suburb.
Messel stared at the jurors, then looked down as the judge polled the jury. The eight women and four men each responded that he or she had voted "guilty."
The jury also convicted Messel, a 51-year-old print shop employee, of being a habitual criminal, which could add six to 20 years to his possible 45- to 65-year sentence for the murder conviction.
He's due to be sentenced Sept. 22.
Wilson's body was found in a vacant lot about 10 miles from the Bloomington campus. Messel's cellphone was found under the body.
Members of her family, including her mother and sister, burst into tears as the guilty verdict was read. Her father, Jeff Wilson, called his slain daughter a hero.
"She fought him off, and now he's off the street," he said.
Messel also was convicted of forgery in 1989, felony battery in 1990, and battery with a deadly weapon and battery resulting in serious injury in 1996. The last two charges resulted in an eight-year prison sentence.
Defense attorney Dorie Maryan said in her closing statement that Wilson fought her attacker — evident by the bruises on her hands — and that if Messel had killed her, he would have had more serious injuries than the few tiny scratches on his arm and face that he had.
Too many important questions remain unanswered about Wilson's slaying, she said.
"For that reason, you must find Mr. Messel not guilty," Maryan said.
Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams conceded several questions remain.
"There are things we will never know about what happened. Is that reasonable doubt? No. We are not going to know why or how or when she got into that vehicle," Adams said.
"But there was her blood found on the hood, the windshield, his clothes — her hair pulled out by the root inside his vehicle — a bag of bloody clothes as he walks out of his home," Adams told jurors.
"There is one thing you all know. Daniel Messel killed that girl. He killed her on Plum Creek. That poor girl struggled for her life. Thank God that phone fell out," Adams said.
The university released a statement saying "Hannah's life and legacy will always live on through the many lives she touched."
"Though the memory of Hannah's tragic loss will remain with us forever, we are grateful that justice has been served," the statement said.