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Messel v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 29, 2017

Daniel E. Messel, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

         Appeal from the Brown Circuit Court The Honorable Judith A. Stewart, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 07C01-1504-MR-113

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Kurt A. Young Nashville, Indiana.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Michael Gene Worden Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          BAKER, JUDGE.

         [¶1] Daniel Messel appeals following his conviction for Murder[1] and adjudication for being an Habitual Offender.[2] Messel argues that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence. He also appeals the sentence imposed by the trial court, contending that it is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character. Finding no error and that the sentence is not inappropriate, we affirm.

         Facts

         [¶2] On April 23, 2015, Hannah Wilson, a 22-year-old senior at Indiana University, finished her last exam for her undergraduate degree and began celebrating with friends that afternoon. Later that evening, Hannah and some of her friends decided to go to a bar in Bloomington. While they were waiting in line to enter the bar, however, Hannah's friends decided that she was too intoxicated to continue with the evening, so they put her in a taxi and told the driver to take her home. Surveillance videos later obtained by police showed a car similar to Messel's following the taxi that was transporting Hannah. The taxi driver followed the instructions of Hannah's friends, dropping her off at the corner of 8th Street and Dunn, which was near her apartment.

         [¶3] On the morning of April 24, 2015, Carol Bridges was driving from her Brown County home to Bloomington when she saw something along Plum Creek Road near Indiana 45 that caught her attention, so she stopped to investigate. When she exited her car and walked closer, she realized there was a body, later identified as Hannah, lying in a vacant lot with a cell phone at its feet. Bridges then called the police. The Brown County Sheriff and his deputies, as well as the Indiana State Police, responded to the scene.

         [¶4] As law enforcement began investigating, they learned that the cell phone near Hannah's body belonged to Messel. State Police detectives arrived at Messel's home early on the morning of April 24, 2015. He was not home, as he normally would have been, nor did he show up for work that day-a pay day- or call in to report his absence. He also did not respond to texts from a friend. Messel emptied his bank account and filled up his car with gas.

         [¶5] Later that day, a neighbor called police when Messel returned home. State Police quickly drove to Messel's home and saw that he was carrying a plastic garbage bag out to his car. State Police arrested him at that time and seized the bag. Further investigation revealed that the bag contained clothing that had blood on it, some of which contained Hannah's DNA. Hannah's blood, hair, and DNA were found in the interior and exterior of Messel's car. Surveillance videos showed a vehicle similar to Messel's on the road that led to the crime scene early on the morning of April 24. Cell phone location evidence linked Messel to the location where Hannah was in Bloomington before her disappearance and to the area near the crime scene on April 24.

         [¶6] An autopsy on Hannah's body was conducted on April 25, 2015. The autopsy revealed that she had sustained various injuries and that she had died after being struck multiple times with a blunt object on the left side of her head, crushing her skull.

         [¶7] On April 27, 2015, the State charged Messel with murder. On December 3, 2015, the State added a count alleging Messel to be an habitual offender. Messel's jury trial began on August 2, 2016. At trial, the State introduced testimony that Messel once possessed a mag flashlight. Messel's attorney objected to this testimony, but the trial court overruled the objection and admitted the evidence.

         [¶8] The jury found Messel guilty of murder on August 10, 2016. The jury then heard evidence regarding the habitual offender allegation and found that Messel is an habitual offender. On September 22, 2016, the trial court sentenced Messel to sixty years imprisonment for murder and enhanced ...


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