Three years before a man raped and killed an Indiana University student in 2015, leaving her body to be found in a wooded Brown County ravine, he sexually assaulted an IU Maurer School of Law student just before she started her first year, authorities say.
The law student reported a sexual assault in 2012, but her attacker remained at large for years. She contacted investigators about a year ago after she read an “eerily similar” account of Daniel Messel’s 2015 rape and murder of Hannah Wilson.
In 2015, Messel was convicted of raping and killing Wilson and sentenced to 80 years in prison. He now faces charges of Class B felony rape and criminal deviate conduct as well as lesser felony counts of battery with injury, criminal confinement and theft for his alleged attack on the law student three years earlier. A pretrial conference is set for Oct. 10 on the new charges against Messel in Monroe Circuit Court 2.
Like Wilson, the law student was assaulted after a night of drinking in Bloomington clubs just off campus, according to police narratives in both cases. As in the Wilson case, Messel allegedly secreted the law student into his vehicle, drove her to an isolated, wooded location, forced her from the car and sexually assaulted her.
She fought off the attacker after he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex, the probable cause affidavit says. The attacker then allegedly punched her in the face with such force that it knocked out a contact lens and forced her to spit out blood. He then got in his car and sped away with her purse, phone and other possessions. The victim went to the closest house, police were dispatched, and she was taken to a hospital where a rape kit examination was administered. Investigators obtained the attacker’s genetic material that was collected from under her fingernails when she scratched him.
After she contacted authorities last year, that genetic evidence from her 2012 assault was tested and matched the genetic profile for Messel in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, police say. The affidavit drafted by Indiana University Police says that in 2012, “There was not a sufficient quantity of DNA at the time for comparison in the FBI’s program used for matching DNA profiles, CODIS.”
When Messel was convicted of Wilson’s murder in 2015, he also was adjudicated as an habitual offender in that case. His lengthy criminal record includes convictions of multiple felony battery charges dating to 1995.
Meanwhile, Messel has petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court to hear an appeal of his conviction and sentence in Wilson’s murder, which was affirmed in June by the Indiana Court of Appeals. Justices had not ruled on whether to grant Messel’s petition for transfer.•