Friends of an Indiana University student who was found dead Friday say she was last seen at the same bar missing IU student Lauren Spierer was seen before she vanished in 2011.
The body of Hannah Wilson, 22, of Fishers, Ind., was found on Friday, the same day she was reported missing. Police have arrested Daniel Messel, 49, in the murder of Wilson, whose cause of death was blunt force trauma, according to the autopsy report. He faced a court appearance on a preliminary charge of murder on Monday.
Spierer, meanwhile, also an Indiana University student, was never found after a night of partying in downtown Bloomington with a group of friends and acquaintances in 2011.
An investigator told Fox 59 that the comparisons between the two cases are “eerily similar” and detectives will most likely take another look at the Spierer case as a result. Friends said Wilson visited the same bar Spierer was at on June 3, 2011.
Court documents released Monday said Wilson had been drinking with friends at a Bloomington hotel late Thursday before her disappearance. The group decided to go to Kilroy’s Sports Bar, but Wilson’s friends decided she was too intoxicated to go into the bar with them.
Her friends told police Wilson got into a taxi alone around 1 a.m. Friday They said they heard her give the driver her address, according to The Associated Press.
No criminal charges have been filed in the disappearance of Spierer, a 20-year-old Greenburgh, N.Y., woman.
Officials with the Brown County Prosecutor’s Office told Fox 59 that they will meet with the Monroe County prosecutor on Monday to determine where charges will be filed in the Wilson case.
Wilson’s body was found around 8:30 a.m. Friday in rural Brown County, about 10 miles from the IU campus.
Brown County Coroner Earl Piper told The Herald-Times that Wilson died from blunt force trauma to the head. He said preliminary results of an autopsy performed Saturday show she was struck three or four times in the back of the head with an unknown object.
No weapon was found in the rural area where her body was found near Lake Lemon, he said. The coroner said Wilson’s only other injuries were superficial abrasions and bruises that he described as protective, rather than defensive, wounds.
“Like trying to prevent her head from being hit,” he told The Herald-Times.
Police said they traced a cellphone found near Wilson’s feet to Messel.
The man who raised the suspect, Gerald Messel, said his stepson spoke of knowing a girl named “Hannah” from the bars near the Indiana University campus in the weeks leading up to Wilson’s death.
Gerald Messel told Fox 59 that he was surprised that Daniel didn’t come home Thursday evening after a regular night out of playing trivia at bars in Bloomington.
Gerald Messel said Daniel didn’t go to work at a print shop on Friday and was arrested by police after he returned to the mobile home the men share in rural Monroe County.
Troopers served a search warrant Friday and confiscated Daniel’s computer, cellphone and gray Kia vehicle, according to Gerald Messel. Daniel Messel was arrested while leaving the home with a bundle of clothes under his arm, Fox 59 reports.
Indiana State Police are investigating the electronic devices, but have not disclosed a possible motive or said whether Messel and Wilson knew one another.
Court documents said at the time of his arrest, Messel had what appeared to be claw marks on his forearms.
Police also found blood spatter on the driver’s side of Messel’s sport-utility vehicle and saw blood and a clump of long black hair on the console, the documents said.
Messel was being held in the Brown County jail in Nashville. It wasn’t clear whether he had an attorney.
The Indy Star said Daniel Messel had a violent past, as he was sent to prison for eight years in 1996 after an arrest for battery.
The paper said news articles showed Messel had a 1991 arrest for assaulting a girlfriend and a 1989 arrest for assaulting his grandmother and breaking her nose.
He also had a 2006 conviction for disorderly conduct.
Wilson’s death cast a pall over the Bloomington campus’ Little 500 weekend, when an annual men’s bicycle race is held and local bars fill up with revelers.
Friday night’s Little 500 festivities were canceled following the news of Wilson’s death. Officials also postponed Saturday’s race, touted as the largest men’s collegiate bike race, until Sunday.
About 1,500 IU students gathered for a vigil Saturday evening at the campus’ Alumni Hall, many of them in tears as they hugged each other. Green and purple balloons were released in her memory from the deck of the building’s solarium, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Several hundred people also attended a vigil at the Indiana Elite competitive cheerleading gym in the Indianapolis suburb of Noblesville.
IU spokesman Mark Land said “the entire IU Bloomington community mourns the tragic death of Hannah Wilson.”
“Our deepest sympathies go out to Hannah’s family and friends during this unspeakably sad time,” he said in a statement.
Wilson, a psychology major, was a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.
A fundraising page titled, “The Hannah Wilson Memorial Fund” has been set up by Margaret Hensley, the president of the Panhellenic Association at Indiana University.
“Her younger sister, Haley, is planning on attending Indiana University next year,” the page says. “We as a community want to welcome her with open arms, and feel that creating this college fund for her would be the best method.”