On April 24, 2015, Indiana University student Hannah Wilson was found dead in an abandoned lot in Brown County. Exactly three years later, some of Wilson’s family sat in a Monroe County courtroom to watch the man convicted of her murder plead guilty to unrelated charges from an attack on another young woman.
Monroe County Judge Marc Kellams accepted a plea deal Tuesday for Daniel Messel, dropping attempted rape charges and sentencing him to 15 years for battery.
Although the 15-year sentence will be served concurrently with the 80-year sentence for Wilson’s murder, the 52-year-old is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Messel had previously pleaded not-guilty to several charges for allegedly beating and attempting to rape a woman in 2012 in Bloomington.
The victim, identified as K.P., said she saw coverage of the murder trial in 2016 and believed Messel was her unidentified attacker. DNA evidence collected at the time of the attack matched Messel’s profile.
K.P. addressed Messel Tuesday. “You’ve had power over me for quite some time,” she said. “You don’t have it anymore.”
Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams worked the murder case against Messel. He attended the sentencing hearing, along with Wilson’s mother and several of the detectives who investigated Wilson’s murder.
“I love seeing the Indiana State Police team, a team of excellent detectives,” he says. “It’s almost a reunion coming back and seeing justice served on that animal.”
The victim says she believes Messel has attacked other young women as well. Adams agrees.
“We had five young women in which we had evidence that he potentially terrorized them throughout 2012, the incident here that he just pled guilty occurred in 2012,” he says. “And of course Hannah was found three years ago today.”
Adams has said previously he believes Messel may be responsible for the disappearance of IU student Lauren Spierer in 2011.
Messel pleaded guilty in person Tuesday, but he interrupted proceedings several times.
He’ll be returned to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.
The Plea Deal
Prosecutors agreed to drop all charges except a battery charge, which they changed to a Class C Felony, for an eight-year sentence.
The agreement also adds seven years for “habitual offender” status, stemming from three felony convictions in 1989 and 1996. A Brown County judge used the same habitual offender status to add 20 years to Messel’s sentence for murder.
“The actual sentence in this case was less important to the State and the victim,” Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Miller said in court.
While pleading guilty to the battery charge, Messel said several times he has no memory of the incident with K.P. in 2012.
Victim Statement: ‘It’s my turn to talk’
The victim took the stand to address Messel, first asking Judge Kellams to make sure Messel did not speak over her statement.
Nevertheless, Messel interrupted several times, asking the judge to limit the victim’s statement to the battery charge and not regarding the attempted rape allegations.
“I don’t want to hear a fantasy,” Messel said.
Judge Kellams repeatedly told Messel to refrain from speaking during the statement.
“I will have you gagged and bound to your chair if I need to,” he said. “Keep your mouth shut.”
K.P. spoke about how the attack has impacted her life.
“I feel blessed that I even escaped with my life,” she said. “I knew this was not just a one time thing for my attacker. This is something he had done before and would do again.”
Messel questioned K.P.’s memory of the event and addressed the ISP officers in the room, questioning why they attended the hearing.
“I think it’s despicable you took this opportunity to disparage K.P.,” Kellams told Messel.
This story has been updated.