How many times can tragedy hit one college campus? It's a question people at Indiana University are asking after yet another beautiful co-ed goes missing and is later found murdered. Could her case finally help solve another troubling mystery?
Indiana University student Hannah Wilson beaten and bloodied body found face down in April 24, 2015.
In the light of day, Bloomington, Indiana looks bright and friendly, filled with students, but the quaint college town has a dark secret: Beautiful young co-eds keep disappearing off the streets. At least two have turned up dead.
In 2000, 19-year-old freshman Jill Behrman disappeared. Her skeletal remains were found three years later. She was killed by a single gunshot to the head. John Myers II was convicted on a mountain of circumstantial evidence and sentenced to 65 years in prison. To this day Myers maintains he had nothing to do with Behrman's murder.
And then there is Lauren Spierer. We covered the story of the petite blue-eyed blonde who went missing after going out for a night of heavy partying with some buddies at a local Bloomington bar. She was last seen alone at an intersection in the wee hours of the morning of June 3, 2011.
Bloomington Police have never made an arrest, and Spierer is still missing.
Hannah Wilson knew all about Behrman and Spierer. But the senior psychology major's biggest concern at the time was simply graduating. Just days before taking her last college exam, Wilson made a surprise visit home to check on her sick cat. It turned out to be the last time her mother would ever see her daughter.
Wilson ended up acing her exam, a cause for celebration. The celebration started at her home with some girlfriends before heading out to the bars.
"At some point in the night she had separated off from her sorority sisters to meet up with some old acquaintances that were already graduated," said Robin Wilson, Hannah's mother.
Wilson met an old boyfriend and some of his buddies at a Bloomington hotel, where she continued to party. And then at around midnight, the group finally heads to Kilroy's. In an eerie coincidence, it's the same sports bar Lauren Spierer visited just hours before she disappeared. Wilson's friends are worried she's had too much to drink. Her friends put Wilson in a cab and pay the driver $20 to take her home, just six blocks away.
"The taxi driver left her at the intersection near her house, watched her walk away, and she was never seen again," said Robin Wilson.
One of Wilson's roommates hears the front door open at around 1 a.m., but never hears it close. Phone records indicate Wilson's cellphone tapped into the house's Wi-Fi a few minutes later. What happens in the next seven and a half hours remains a heartbreaking mystery.
Brown County, Indiana Prosecutor Ted Adams says an unidentified female body was found here in a grassy area about 10 miles north of Bloomington around 8:34 a.m.
"Our first impression, foul play," said Adams.
Hannah Wilson was dead from blunt-force trauma. She was hit so hard her skull was crushed.
"We never found a murder weapon," said Adams. "We were able to draw a conclusion to think what the murder weapon was, and we believe it to be a Maglite flashlight."
Wilson was fully clothed, but had no purse and no identification. Luckily police find a cellphone resting perfectly between her sneakers, a possible clue as to the victim's identity.
"Of course this would have been pitch dark on April 24, 2015, around 3 a.m. is when I think it happened," said Adams. "In broad daylight, at her feet, was a bright red cellphone. We believed initially it was her phone."
But detectives quickly discover the cellphone is not registered to Hannah Wilson. If it wasn't hers, could it be the killer's?
Hannah Wilson was just days away from graduating from Indiana University. As police would search for the killer, they would wonder if this case was connected to another I.U. student who went missing years before, Lauren Spierer.
The police photo with the red cellphone will not only solve the Indiana University student's brutal murder, but also expose the monster who's allegedly been hunting young beautiful young co-eds around Bloomington, Indiana.
"The cellphone led to everything. It was like the first domino in a series of dominoes," said Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams.
Police track the cellphone to Daniel Messel, a 49-year-old print shop employee.
His friends have no clue. They all think Messel is a harmless trivia buff. But police know Messel for something far more sinister.
"Daniel Messel has an extensive violent criminal history, specifically against women," said Adams. "We actually found that he went to prison for using a 2 x 4 on his grandmother and hitting her in the head."
When cops pull up to Messel's house, they find his SUV packed. And Messel is about to load one last bag -- inside that bag: blood-soaked jeans, sneakers and an Indiana University sweatshirt. The clothes are his, the blood is Hannah Wilson's. And inside his SUV, more grisly clues lead cops straight to Hannah Wilson.
"In the center console, there are about 50 strands of Hannah Wilson's hair," said Adams.
Daniel Messel is arrested on the spot, then charged with first-degree murder.
Robin Wilson and her youngest daughter Haley, sit in court every single torturous day. Robin says it was like looking into the face of the devil.
Prosecutor Ted Adams lays out a timeline showing how the lives of Hannah Wilson and Daniel Messel were on a collision course that terrible night.
"We believe some time after 1:05 and before 2:58 a.m. that these two individuals, that had no known connections, met," said Adams.
While Hannah Wilson is out partying with her friends, police trace Messel to Yogi's Bar. A security camera captures Messel with a buddy waiting for a table.
"They played trivia for two hours. They checked out, we think it was around 11:30 p.m.," said Adams.
Just after midnight Hannah Wilson and her friends ended up at Kilroy's sports bar, just a few blocks down from Yogi's.
Just down the street another security camera captures Messel cruising up and down Bloomington's main drag in his Kia Sportage. Adams believes Messel was looking for easy prey: a young co-ed who'd had too much to drink.
In never-before-released video, Hannah Wilson can be seen inside a cab. And then, in a chilling split-second following close behind, Daniel Messel in his Kia Sportage.
Adams believes he followed Wilson home.
"I think at some point she realized her license was missing and she walked out of her house to see if she maybe dropped it out there," said Adams. "It's my belief that Daniel Messel was driving up and down these roads, somehow offered to help or offered to give her a ride back to the bar, and I think that's how those two individuals met."
Adams says blood evidence inside Messel's SUV tells its own chilling story about what happened next.
"It's my theory that he somehow knocked her out in the Kia Sportage," said Adams.
Adams believes Messel then drove Hannah, still unconscious, toward a remote cavernous area about 15 miles outside of Bloomington, but ran into an unexpected road block: a bridge was out.
"I think Hannah had regained consciousness and was fighting," said Adams. "He pulled quickly into this lot because he had to defend himself from the onslaught of Hannah trying to escape that vehicle. There was no indication of DNA or blood spatter on the passenger side. That's why I think he had drug her over the center console on to the ground a little bit forward from this spot and killed her there."
Although no murder weapon was ever found, that phone Wilson was able to strip away from Messel in her last dying moments was all the evidence a jury would need to find him guilty of first-degree murder.
"The absolute max he could get was 85 years, so I was satisfied," said Adams.
As Wilson's murder trial played out on the local news, something else shocking began to happen: Young women started coming forward with allegations of stalking, assault and rape, and they all pointed at Daniel Messel.
"There was a house of female college students that were terrorized by a person they thought to be Daniel Messel," said Adams.
And the latest bombshell: an Indiana University law student is now accusing Messel as the man who attempted to rape her. Police tell Crime Watch Daily "a DNA profile recovered from the evidence in that case is consistent with the DNA profile of Messel." He's been charged with attempted rape, but had not yet entered a plea.
Which leaves many wondering, are there more Daniel Messel victims out there?
Prosecuting attorney Ted Adams is now breaking news to Crime Watch Daily: Adams suspects Messel is also involved in the missing-person cases of Lauren Spierer.
Lauren Spierer vanished in 2011. A haunting image shows Spierer walking out of her friend's apartment and into the dark at an intersection just blocks away from where Hannah Wilson was abducted.
"The similarities that I know involving Hannah Wilson and Lauren Spierer, obviously you have I.U. students, young, attractive I.U. students, they were both consuming alcohol, and that she was around the same eight-block radius of where Hannah Wilson was plucked out of and obviously she missing," said Adams.
Adams also sent Crime Watch Daily letters, 23 pages from a man named David Hayden, who claims he helped Messel move Lauren Spierer's body. Adams believes Hayden and Messel did prison time together in the 1990s. In one of the letters Hayden writes Spierer's body was "dressed in black stretch yoga pants, white shirt and dark thong, no bra and several rings with one hand." Chillingly the last picture of Lauren Spierer shows her wearing similar clothes. Messel denies knowing Hayden or Lauren Spierer and wrote a letter to a judge, saying "The people that investigated the case know I had nothing to do with it."
"I was not a part of the Lauren Spierer investigation I know that Daniel Messel was a person of interest, but I have no idea where that investigation stands of today," said Adams.
Daniel Messel has been sentenced to 80 years behind bars for Hannah Wilson's murder.
Hannah's mother Robin now has some peace knowing her brave young daughter put him there, and truly believes Hannah Wilson lost her life fighting to save others.
"By putting up the fight that she did and causing his cellphone to been left at the crime scene we have a killer off the streets and may have saved many other innocent girls," said Robin Wilson, who continues to honor Hannah's memory.