Friends and family of murdered Indiana University student Hannah Wilson broke into tears as the jury announced Wednesday it found Daniel Messel guilty of murdering the 22-year-old last year. The jury deliberated for about five hours before reaching a verdict.
Wilson’s body was found in April 2015 in a vacant lot about 10 miles from the Bloomington campus. Messel’s cellphone was found under the body.
For the charge of murder in Indiana, Messel will face up to 85 years in prison.
Each Side Argues Their Case During Closing Statements
Closing statements Wednesday summarized the testimony the jury heard over the past two weeks.
Prosecutor Jim Roberts began the morning by showing the jury a large photo of Hannah Wilson. He said Wilson’s life was cut short and her blood on Messel’s clothes proved he was the person who killed her.
“You know the saying, ‘The clothes make the man?'” Roberts said. “In this case I think the clothes mark the man.”
Roberts went through each of the “pillars” of their case: Daniel Messel’s phone was found partially under Hannah Wilson’s body; Messel’s car had Hannah’s blood spattered inside and outside; and Messel’s clothing had Hannah’s blood on it.
“Hannah Wilson’s life was cut short by a brutal, cowardly killer who is sitting within feet of you,” Roberts told the jury to close his argument. “The torch is now passed to you…ladies and gentlemen of the jury: find Dan Messel guilty.”
Defense Attorney Dorie Maryan spent about 30 minutes presenting her final statement to the jury. She addressed those “pillars” the defense said were essential the case.
“The cell was not the key,” Maryan said. “There are more questions about that cell phone than there are answers.”
Maryan said the phone was not tested for DNA because a detective handled it without gloves, compromising potential evidence. She said there was not enough blood on Messel’s clothes to be consistent with killing Hannah himself, suggesting a third person was involved somehow and that Messel’s car may have been moving when Hannah’s blood was spattered on it.
Maryan told jurors police investigators waited too long to talk to Hannah’s friends about that night because it was more convenient for them.
“There was a dead woman,” Maryan said. “Convenience does not trump justice.”
Maryan concluded by telling the jury, “The state has not met its burden. And for that reason you must find Mr. Messel not guilty.”
Prosecutor Ted Adams spoke last, telling jurors Maryan only provided them with distractions. He reiterated the DNA evidence found on Messel’s clothes and car and emphasized that not knowing certain facts does not cast reasonable doubt.
“This is all we have of Hannah Wilson: a DNA swab,” Adams told jurors, holding up an evidence envelope. “Because that man killed her,” he concluded, pointing to Messel in the court room.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.