NASHVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A man accused of killing an Indiana University student is the victim of a botched police investigation, his attorney told jurors on Tuesday, but prosecutors noted that the victim's blood and hair were found in his vehicle.
Daniel Messel, 50, is on trial for the April 2015 slaying of 22-year-old Hannah Wilson, who was last seen alive getting into a taxi after a night drinking with friends. Her body was found hours later in a vacant lot about 10 miles from the Bloomington campus. If convicted of murder, he could face up to 65 years in prison.
Defense attorney Dorie Maryan said during her opening statement that police didn't fully investigate the case. She said Messel was the first suspect identified by police and quickly arrested, and that investigators ignored other possible suspects.
She conceded that Messel and Wilson encountered one another on the morning of the slaying, but suggested someone else was present as well.
"Her friends will tell you that intoxicated or sober, Ms. Wilson would not have gotten into a car with a stranger, but maybe if she was with someone she knew she might have," Maryan said.
Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams said evidence points toward Messel's guilt: His cellphone was found near Wilson's body, her blood and hair was found in his SUV, and Messel was carrying a bag of his clothes spotted with Wilson's blood when he was arrested.
"She was two weeks from graduation. She was a psych major, bubbly, fun," Adams said. "She was a fun person with fun friends."
Authorities haven't said how or when they believe Messel and Wilson came into contact. When police first went to Messel's home, his father told them his son had not returned from playing trivia at a local bar the night before.
Maryan suggested Wilson's boyfriend should have been a suspect, saying the only DNA tested was Messel's. She said the boyfriend spoke to Wilson on her phone 20 minutes before she disappeared. She also accused police of not testing a cigarette butt found near Wilson's body.
Messel's trial is expected to last two weeks. Maryan unsuccessfully sought a change of venue because of pretrial news coverage about the case.
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com