Man convicted in IU student’s death appeals 80-year sentence

Daniel Messel

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A man serving an 80-year prison sentence for the beating death of an Indiana University student is appealing his sentence.

Daniel Messel’s appeal argues that evidence speculating that a heavy flashlight may have been used to kill 22-year-old Hannah Wilson in April 2015 should not have been introduced during his trial.

His brief, filed Wednesday, also argues that his prison sentence was unfair and excessive. Messel was convicted in Wilson’s slaying last August by a Brown County jury and sentenced to 60 years for murder and 20 years for being a habitual offender.

His appeal comes as the 52-year-old Bloomington man remains hospitalized at the psychiatric unit of the New Castle Correctional Facility, The Bloomington Herald-Times reported.

Messel was sent to the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City to serve his sentence, but he was transferred in November from the northern Indiana prison to the New Castle facility’s psychiatric hospital.

State Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison said he cannot release any information about Messel’s condition.

Messel’s appeal filed by Brown County attorney Kurt Young questions whether the trial court erred by allowing prosecutors “to offer evidence that Messel at some point owned a Maglight” flashlight when the murder weapon was never found and no trial testimony “supported a conclusion that Wilson was bludgeoned by a Maglight.”

A coroner found that a blunt object such as a flashlight, tree limb or baseball bat could have been the murder weapon.

The appeal cites trial testimony by a former co-worker of Messel’s who said that in the year before Wilson’s slaying Messel had mentioned something to him about having a Maglight flashlight. He testified that he couldn’t recall the context but thought it might be for self-defense.

Wilson, a psychology major from the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, was two weeks away from graduation when she disappeared after partying with friends during Little 500 weekend. She was later found beaten to death in a vacant lot about 10 miles from Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.

Messel’s cellphone was discovered beneath her body.