DNA expert testifies about evidence in murder trial; jury to start deliberating Wednesday

8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 9

Prosecutor Ted Adams stood in front of a Brown County jury holding a red pullover sweatshirt. Indiana State Police DNA expert Michael Raymond pointed to an area on the right sleeve where he cut it to test it for blood and DNA.

That particular section had a mixture of Daniel Messel and Hannah Wilson’s DNA.

Messel is on trial for the murder of Wilson, an Indiana University student, last April.

Messel’s and Wilson’s DNA was discovered on multiple sections of the sweatshirt, Raymond said. It was found in the back of Messel’s 2012 Kia Sportage SUV.

Raymond also tested hairs found on the Sportage’s center console and in the back driver’s side floorboard. Both samples tested positive for Wilson, Raymond testified.

A DNA profile was obtained from one hair in the back floorboard from an “unknown woman,” Raymond testified.

DNA from Wilson was also found on the steering wheel, inside the driver’s side door near the reflector, on the windshield and on the vehicle’s hood.

Raymond testified that the clothing Messel had in a plastic garbage bag at the time of his arrest — a red Cincinnati Reds T-shirt, brown Sketcher shoes and a pair of blue jeans — tested positive for Wilson’s DNA, Messel’s DNA and an unknown male’s DNA.

Discovering unknown DNA is not uncommon, Raymond testified.

“That could come on to the sample at any point. Whenever we as humans contact something, we leave DNA behind,” he said.

The left shoe tested positive for Wilson’s DNA only, Raymond stated.

Raymond also tested fingernail clippings. DNA from Wilson and an unknown male was detected on the nails of her right hand. 

Adams held up a grey long-sleeved shirt covered in brown and red stains as the jury looked in silence. It is what Wilson was wearing the night of her murder.

The shirt, which had been cut up for testing, tested positive for her DNA only.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Dorie Maryan emphasized that Raymond did not find Messel’s DNA on Wilson’s stained grey shirt.

She also questioned Raymond about whether or not he was asked by the Indiana State Police to test a cigarette butt found near Wilson’s body in the vacant lot off Plum Creek Road. Raymond was not asked to do so.

“Cigarette butts work quite well assuming they have been used,” Raymond said.

1 p.m.

After lunch, a Bloomington woman testified outside the presence of jurors. 

She said she was reading a story about Wilson’s murder in the Herald-Times when she was stricken with panic. 

When she saw Messel’s photo with the story, “My heart started racing. I felt like I was screaming. I felt this overwhelming fear and anxiety. I started shaking,” she said.

She reported she was walking home from a bar in Bloomington during the first weekend of November 2012 when she was stopped by a man in a light-colored SUV.

She had been drinking with friends, but since she was underage, she was denied entrance into Dunkirk on Kirkwood Avenue.

She decided to walk by herself to her residence hall on 10th Street.

“I was a little bit more than tipsy. I was intoxicated, but I was coherent enough to walk and speak,” she testified. “I felt confident walking home by myself.”

A man pulled up and rolled his window down.

“What’s a pretty girl like you walking around this place? Something bad could happen to you. Is everything alright? Do you need a ride? Do you want one?” the woman testified the man said to her.

She was hesitant at first to take him up on his offer.

“I thought it’s a short distance, cold outside, I would take a ride,” she said.

The man began to drive her home, but he passed 10th Street, saying he knew a shortcut. She testified that at this point, he grabbed her neck from the back and put her face in his lap.

She testified his pants were unzipped and she “bucked” her head up. He proceeded to slam her head against the steering wheel and dashboard multiple times, she said.

“I didn’t know what to do, so i jumped out of the car,” she said.

She estimated the vehicle was traveling around 30 MPH when she jumped. She crawled to the side of the street as the SUV sped off. But she didn’t go to the hospital. She didn’t call the police until almost three weeks after the attack.

“I was embarrassed because I was underage, I was intoxicated, I made the choice to get in the car after he offered and I blamed myself for the experience,” she said.

She testified outside of the presence of the jurors in an effort for the state to prove that her testimony should be admitted as evidence in Messel’s murder trial.

However, she was unable to say for certain that the man who attacked her was in the courtroom. 

Public defender Dorie Maryan questioned her about the fact she initially described the vehicle as a white Ford Explorer, according to the police report taken weeks after her attack.

Messel’s 2012 Kia Sportage is silver/gray.

The woman said she uses “Explorer” to describe SUVs generically.

The woman was also unable to provide enough details of the perpetrator’s face for a composite sketch, but testified she remembered his acne scars. She said the man had a stockier build, dark eyes, short hair, no glasses or facial hair and was wearing a black jacket.

Messel, 50, was wearing glasses in the courtroom.

Maryan also questioned the woman on why she initially identified the man’s age as somewhere between 24 and 30. The woman said she may have been wrong because the man who attacked her had crow’s feet.

Judge Judith Stewart ruled that her testimony would not be admissible in court. She said that when a “prior bad act” is being offered as evidence and it’s an uncharged prior act with no conviction, the state has to prove the person who committed the prior act is the defendant in the courtroom.

“Her testimony was not a match; she was not able to identify the witness, so the evidence is not admissible,” Stewart said.

2:30 p.m.

The prosecution has rested its case against Messel. The defense will now begin calling its witnesses.

4 p.m.

The defense called two witnesses this afternoon before resting its case.

Messel was not one of the witnesses. Neither was his father, who had been waiting in court in case he was called.

The defense was considering calling Messel’s father to talk about statements his son had made to him about his innocence. However, that could open the door to hearsay testimony and jeopardize Messel’s right to remain silent.

Anisa Jallal, a friend of Wilson’s for 11 years, testified that she walked by Wilson’s home at around 1:30 a.m. April 24, 2015, after drinking at a local bar and that she considered entering the home to get a sweatshirt because she was cold.

Wilson was last seen by a taxicab driver near her home shortly after 1 a.m. that morning.

Wilson had given her the closely guarded passcode to her home that week. “Other than that I was never informed of the passcode,” she testified.

Jallal decided against entering the home since it wasn’t hers. She lived at a sorority on campus.

She testified she didn’t notice anything unusual at the home and she didn’t see Wilson outside, but she wasn’t looking for something unusual and it was dark out.

Tony Dobbs, a resident of Little Creek Drive in Helmsburg, testified that he contacted Indiana State Police after reading about Wilson’s body being discovered on Plum Creek Road, about three miles from Little Creek Drive.

Dobbs initially believed he saw a suspicious truck at the place Wilson was found on the morning her body was discovered. He later realized he made a mistake; he saw the truck that Saturday morning, April 25.

The jury is due back in court at 9 a.m. to hear closing arguments and instructions before they begin deliberating.