Convicted murderer charged in 2012 attempted rape

A Bloomington man convicted of murder in Brown County has been charged with attempted rape in a 2012 case using DNA collected during the murder investigation.

A warrant for Daniel Messel, 51, was issued Oct. 28 in Monroe County. He is in the maximum-security Indiana State Prison in Michigan City serving an 80-year sentence.

Messel was found guilty of murder in August in the death of 22-year-old Indiana University student Hannah Wilson. She was days away from graduating and had been out celebrating the night she disappeared. Her body was found off Plum Creek Road in Brown County in April 2015.

The victim in the attempted rape case came forward after reading about testimony in Messel’s murder trial. She contacted the IU Police Department and told them she believed Messel may have been the man who attacked her in 2012.

Detective Garth VanLeeuwen reported in a probable cause affidavit that in September 2012, a detective with the IU Police Department went to speak with a sexual assault victim at Bloomington Hospital.

The victim was an IU law student at the time. She told police that she was drinking with friends at Nick’s English Hut and Kilroy’s Dunkirk, both on Kirkwood Avenue in downtown Bloomington, and that she was very drunk because she had also been drinking before going out to the bars.

Her last memory was at Dunkirk’s. She said she felt an “icy presence, felt fear in her chest and sensed something was wrong and she was in trouble,” and found herself in a car with a white man she did not know, the affidavit says.

She told police that the man was driving her somewhere and was attempting to have “physical sexual contact” with her as he drove. She remembered the car hitting gravel and stopping by a wooded area near the IU campus.

According to the affidavit, the man got out of the vehicle, went to the passenger side and pulled the woman out of the car by her hair. He threw her on the gravel and removed her underwear, which police discovered the next day.

The victim reported fighting off the man, punching, scratching, kicking and kneeing him. He forced oral sex until she pushed him away, the report said.

The man then punched her on the side of her face hard enough to knock her contact out of her eye; he may have punched her more than once, report said.

He ran to his car and left her behind. Her purse, shoes, cellphone, credit card and driver’s permit were all in his vehicle, she told police.

The woman was able to wake residents in a nearby home to get help. At the hospital, police collected evidence from and took pictures of her body, the affidavit said.

The Indiana State Police lab was unable to detect blood or semen, but did uncover the presence of an unknown person’s DNA under her fingernails when she scratched her attacker. At the time there was not enough DNA for comparison in an FBI database, the affidavit said.

Four years later, police found a match after the victim reached out to police again and they asked that the Indiana State Police test the unknown DNA with Messel’s.

It was consistent with his DNA, the report said.

Detective VanLeeuwen went to speak with Messel Oct. 18 at the prison. After being read his rights, he refused to speak about the case, the report said.

Messel has been charged with attempted rape, a Class B felony; criminal deviate conduct, a Class B felony; criminal confinement, a Class C felony; theft, a Class D felony; and battery resulting in bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor.

During Messel’s murder trial, another woman told the court outside the presence of jurors about an assault that happened in November 2012 in Bloomington. It involved a man picking her up after a night of drinking and offering to give her a ride home, then attempting to force her into oral sex before slamming her head into the dashboard. She testified that she jumped out of the moving SUV.

That woman’s testimony was ruled inadmissible during Messel’s trial because she could not identify Messel in the courtroom.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.