NASHVILLE, Ind. – Daniel Messel was sentenced Thursday to spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of IU student Hannah Wilson. Before he was taken away, Wilson’s 19-year-old sister called him a coward.
“I hope you sit in that cell and contemplate for the rest of your days what you’ve done,” said Haley Wilson, now an IU sophomore. “You had a choice. Hannah died by the decisions of you, Daniel Messel.”
After the sentencing, Haley told the Indiana Daily Student she had been anxious all week because she knew she would have to look her sister’s killer in the eyes. She took a political science test Thursday morning before racing to Brown County to address Messel in court.
She thought maybe she could get through to him.
But as she spoke, Messel, 51, remained stone-faced. He slowly swiveled in his chair and fumbled with a pen.
“You sit there and act as if you don’t even know who Hannah is,” Haley said. “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t bring Hannah back.”
Last month, Messel was convicted of first-degree murder and a habitual offender charge. In court Thursday, Brown Circuit Court Judge Judith Stewart sentenced him to 60 years for the murder charge and added 20 years for the habitual offender charge based on his violent criminal history.
Messel proclaimed his innocence and called the 10-day trial a work of “fictional nonsense.”
“I did not kill Hannah,” he said from one side of the courtroom as he stared at two pews full of Hannah’s friends and family.
On April 23, 2015, after Hannah took the final exam of her college career, she went out with friends to celebrate. It was the Thursday of Little 500 week. Her friends determined she had drunk too much and sent her home in a cab.
The next morning, a woman found Hannah’s body in a vacant grassy lot at the intersection of State Road 45 and Plum Creek Road in Brown County. Messel’s cell phone lay at her feet.
When police arrived at his house for questioning, Messel carried a trash bag full of clothes. Police discovered Hannah’s blood and hair in Messel’s car.
Messel had abducted Hannah from her home the night before, bludgeoned her to death and dumped her body in the grassy clearing, as prosecutor Ted Adams presented the case during the trial. Detectives — including a pathologist — testified.
Before the judge announced Messel’s sentence, Hannah’s parents addressed him in court.
“I have waited 17 months to talk to you,” said Hannah’s mother Robin Wilson, who locked eyes with Messel.
Unmoving, he stared back.
Robin and Haley had so many questions that Messel could answer only if he admitted he had killed Hannah.
“Did you feel pleasure when you heard my daughter cry under the force of every blow?” Robin asked Messel. “Was Hannah your first? Or had you killed before?”
Haley had questions, too. She wanted to know why that night? Why Hannah’s intersection of Eighth and Dunn streets?
“I am 100-percent certain that he is responsible for ending my daughter’s life at age 22,” Hannah’s father, Jeff Wilson, said in his statement.
Jeff also probed Messel to admit his guilt. But Messel sat expressionless, staring him in the eyes, as well.
There are certain facts about the night of her death “that will never be known,” Jeff said.
In their statements, Hannah’s parents asked the court to consider the maximum sentence, 65 years for murder and 20 years for the habitual offender charge.
Including Hannah’s murder, Messel has been charged with 21 violent acts, though many have been dismissed.
Jeff will receive $19,316 in restitution for funeral expenses and lost wages. Robin will receive $15,155.
Adams, the prosecutor, said in court Thursday he has had to lie to his young daughter, who has been having nightmares about monsters.
“I told her there’s no such thing as monsters,” Adams said. “But I lied. I’m looking at one right there.”
Haley ended her statement on a note of empathy before returning to her court pew.
“I wish you could have experienced the love like I had,” she said to Messel. “I wish you could have had a sister like me.”
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