NASHVILLE, Ind - After several delays and a three-day jury selection, the murder trial is now underway for the man accused of killing Indiana University senior Hannah Wilson.
Daniel Messel, 49, is charged with murdering the 22-year-old Wilson. Wilson’s body was found in Brown County in April 2015 just two weeks before she was set to graduate from IU.
An autopsy revealed that Wilson died from blunt force trauma. Prosecutors said DNA and physical evidence links Messel to the crime. According to court documents, that evidence includes traces of the IU student’s blood and hair in Messel’s vehicle, and the discovery of his cell phone next to her body. Police also found Messel with a bag of bloody clothing and “claw marks” on his forearms.
Investigators say Messel had used an online profile to find a “special I.U. coed,” and had mentioned meeting a young woman named Hannah prior to the murder. Prosecutors allege Messel either followed or encountered Wilson after her friends had sent the intoxicated young woman home in a cab from Kilroy's Sports Bar.
Messel, who worked at a Bloomington print shop, was known to regularly visit Yogi's Bar and Grill to play trivia.
Opening statements from the prosecution and defense set forth each side’s impeding approach to presenting their case to the 12-member jury. Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams told the jury they will be seeing and hearing a large amount of graphic evidence and testimony in the days to come. Photos of Wilson’s badly beaten body were shown to jury members during testimony by Brown County Coroner Earl Piper.
DNA evidence is also expected to play a role in the trial, which could last between two and three weeks.
During opening statements, Messel’s defense attorney warned the jury against being “overwhelmed” by the case. Attorney Maryan Dorie asked jury members to be open minded without rushing to judgement. Dorie has called the prosecution’s evidence circumstantial. Dorie does not deny that Messel and Wilson crossed paths after Wilson left Kilroy's. But, she argues, the evidence being presented doesn’t “put a weapon in his hand.”