BLOOMINGTON (April 27, 2015) – New details emerged Monday morning about the disappearance and death of Indiana University student Hannah Wilson.
Gerald Messel—stepfather of Daniel Messel—and an investigator told FOX59 that Daniel Messel’s cell phone was discovered next to Wilson’s body. The probable cause affidavit released Monday confirms that information.
Wilson’s body was found in a vacant lot in Brown County Friday; Daniel Messel was arrested hours later. Gerald Messel said his 49-year-old son told him, “The police have my phone.”
According to court documents, Wilson, 22, had been drinking with friends inside a room at the Hilton Garden Inn. Around 1 a.m. Friday, she and her friends walked to Kilroy’s Sports Bar. Her friends decided she was too drunk to go to the bar. They considered calling Uber to get her a ride, but a cab pulled up to the curb. They put her in the cab by herself and paid the cab fare.
Witnesses heard Wilson give her address to the cab driver. That was the last time her friends saw her. A missing persons report was filed Friday afternoon.
The cell phone left at the scene led investigators to Messel. They learned he hadn't shown up at work Friday at Fine Print Printing in Bloomington, something his supervisors described as unusual. A friend at work said Messel gave him a ride home around 11 p.m. Thursday.
Investigators went to Messel's last known address, but he wasn't home when they arrived. They did talk to his stepfather, who said he and his son had dinner at Cheddar’s around 6 p.m. Thursday. Afterward, Daniel Messel went to Yogi’s Bar and Grill for trivia night. His stepfather said his son didn’t come back home after trivia night, something he described as "unusual behavior." Messel usually returns between 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. on those nights, his stepfather told police.
A neighbor called police to let them know that Messel had returned home. When investigators arrived, Messel had a garbage bag of clothes as well as "claw marks" on his forearms. His vehicle, a 2012 Kia Sportage, had blood spatter on the driver’s side along with blood and black hair on the console, court documents said.
Messel told police "he had nothing to say to law enforcement" about the case. He was detained and transported to the Bloomington State Police Post No. 33 for further investigation.
Gerald Messel told FOX59 that his stepson mentioned he'd met a woman named Hannah in the weeks before the murder.
The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the back of the head. Investigators said she was struck four times. Investigators said she suffered a "significant trauma to her head" and had a "substantial amount of blood pooled beneath her head." A woman driving on Plum Creek Road in Brown County saw Wilson's body in a vacant lot.
The car towed by police was not owned by Messel. He has a job, but he doesn’t have any savings. He is being held without bond.
Messel had his initial hearing Monday, April 27, and he was formally charged with murder. He attended the hearing via video conference from the Brown County Law Enforcement Center.
He answered the judge’s questions with a “yes” or “no,” and the judge entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. Messel was appointed a public defender.
Messel’s bond hearing is set for May 15, and his jury trial is tentatively set for July 22.
An investigator told FOX59 that the circumstances surrounding Wilson's death made detectives think of the 2011 disappearance of IU student Lauren Spierer. Bloomington Police Department Captain Joe Qualters said in a release Monday:
Messel's arrest has provided BPD detectives with an avenue of investigation into Lauren Spierer's disappearance that will be diligently pursued and, in fact, that investigation has already begun. BPD detectives provided assistance in the death investigation of Hannah Wilson, but an effort will be made to confer in more detail with Indiana State Police detectives to determine what, if any, similarities might exist in the two cases that may have not been released to the public. The information obtained from them and what is obtained independently by BPD detectives will determine the course of BPD's investigation.
There is no pre-determined timeline for how long this inquiry might take and it is unknown at this time when it might be completed.
"We're playing this close to the vest and I don't want to make a comment at this time. Our deepest sympathies to the family," said Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams.