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IU student’s killer pleads guilty to prior rape of law student

April 24, 2018

A man serving an 80-year prison sentence for the 2015 rape and murder of an Indiana University student has pleaded guilty to the rape of an IU law student three years earlier.

Daniel Messel, 52, pleaded guilty Tuesday to battery resulting in serious injury in the September 2012 attack on the then-22-year-old woman at Bloomington’s Lake Griffy.

A Monroe County judge sentenced Messel to eight years on the battery charge and seven years for being a habitual offender. Messel will serve those 15 years concurrently with the 80-year sentence for his conviction in the April 2015 slaying of 22-year-old Hannah Wilson of Fishers. Messel had been charged with Class B felony rape and criminal deviate conduct, as well as lesser felony counts of battery with injury, criminal confinement and theft in the 2012 attack.

Wilson had just finished final exams for her undergraduate degree when she went out celebrating with friends in 2015. 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 died after being struck multiple times with a blunt object in the head.

Messel’s cellphone 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.

After the victim of the 2012 attack heard details of the Wilson case, she contacted authorities again in 2016, noting the “eerily similar” nature of the assault against her. Authorities soon confirmed Messel as a suspect.

Messel assaulted the victim in the 2012 attack just before she started her first year at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. 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 the law student contacted authorities in 2016 upon hearing of Messel’s conviction in the Wilson case, the genetic evidence from her 2012 assault was tested and matched the genetic profile for Messel in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, police said. However, Messel’s DNA should have been in the database at that time, given his prior felony convictions. The affidavit drafted by Indiana University Police says 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 a habitual offender in that case. His lengthy criminal record includes convictions of multiple felony battery charges dating back to 1995.

The victim of Messel’s 2012 attack testified Tuesday that she’s satisfied with the sentence because Messel will spend the rest of his life in prison.

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