Murderer Sentenced in Student's Death That Drew Comparisons to Lauren Spierer's Still-Unsolved Disappearance
A man whose abduction and murder last year of Indiana University student Hannah Wilson invoked comparisons to the still-unsolved disappearance of Lauren Spierer was sentenced Thursday to 80 years in prison, PEOPLE confirms.
Daniel Messel, 51, maintains his innocence in the death of the 22-year-old Wilson, but he was found guilty last month of first-degree murder. Messel was sentenced for 60 years and given an additional 20 years as a habitual offender.
He plans to appeal his sentence, according to RTV6.
Wilson’s body was discovered on April 24, 2015, in a grassy vacant lot about 10 miles from the Bloomington campus. She was found hours after her friends said she was last seen leaving Kilroy’s Sports Bar, the same bar visited by Spierer before Spierer disappeared in June 2011.
The coroner concluded that Wilson had been struck three to four times in the back of the head and died of blunt force trauma.
Asked by Judge Judith Stewart if he wanted to address the court at his sentencing this week, Messel spoke directly to Wilson’s family, saying, “I didn’t kill Hannah. I’m sorry for the Wilson family’s loss, but I didn’t do it and if it was my daughter, I would want to know who did it,” reports WTHR.
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Prosecutors said during Messel’s trial that Wilson’s blood and hair were found in his Kia Sportage, and his cell phone was recovered near her body. Messel called the prosecution’s theory that he beat Wilson to death with a Maglite a “fantasy.”
Prosecutor Ted Adams also made note of Messel’s eight prior convictions for violent behavior.
“You robbed Hannah of a lifetime ahead of her,” Wilson’s mother, Robin, said to Messel at the sentencing, reports FOX59. “You robbed me of knowing how beautiful she will look on her wedding day.”
“Why Hannah? What did you really have to lose, Daniel? Why my daughter? Where did your cross paths? How did you get her in the car?” Robin said to him. “Did you feel pleasure when you heard my daughter’s skull crack? Was Hannah your first, or did you kill before?”
She told reporters afterward, of her suspicions, “As Hannah’s mother, I have had my own feelings about the fact that she was probably not the first IU student. … I have no grounds or basis for that other than a mother’s intuition.”
At the time Hannah’s body was found, an investigator noted “eerily similar” circumstances that echoed the disappearance of Spierer. The 20-year-old sophomore from Edgemont, New York, vanished in the early hours of June 3, 2011, after a night of partying that included an early morning stop at Kilroy’s.
Despite surface parallels with Wilson’s case, the Spierers have been told there’s no connection.
On the fifth anniversary of Spierer’s disappearance this summer, Bloomington police tallied more than 3,500 tips investigated – but still no answers about her fate.
“The investigation into Lauren’s disappearance has never been considered or labeled a ‘cold case,’ ” the department said in a statement at the time, adding, “There is work being done on the case literally every day.”