Detectives believe an Indiana University student murdered after a night of drinking made it home safely, and encountered her killer sometime in the following hours, a source said Wednesday.
Authorities are poring over data from a cell phone left by the suspect near the body of 22-year-old Hannah Wilson for clues about how the two allegedly encountered each other the morning the college senior was last seen.
Daniel E. Messel, 49, who was arrested and charged Monday in the death of Wilson, is also being investigated in the 2011 unsolved disappearance of Indiana University student Lauren Spierer, who has never been found, police said. While no link between the two cases has been made, authorities described them as "eerily similar" and said a separate investigation is already underway.
A law enforcement source told FoxNews.com detectives have reason to believe Wilson made it inside her East Eighth Street address after friends put her in a taxi at 1:30 a.m. Friday -- deciding she was too intoxicated to go into Kilroy's Sports Bar with them. How Wilson allegedly encountered Messel sometime after 1:30 a.m. Friday remains unclear, the source said.
A critical clue in the case is a cell phone belonging to Messel that police say was left near Wilson's body -- found Friday morning by a passerby in a rural area of Brown County, about 10 miles from campus. The phone is what led authorities to Messel, who lived with his father in their Bloomington trailer home.
"There's all kinds of things were looking at on his cell phone," the source told FoxNews.com, saying detectives believe the suspect accidentally dropped his phone at the scene.
Wilson, of Fishers, Ind., a psychology major and member of the Gamma Phi sorority, was last seen by her friends about 1 a.m. Friday when they arranged for a cab to take her to her Bloomington home.
The cab company, which police say had cameras installed in its taxis, dropped Wilson off at her address. Sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. she was killed, her skull crushed by repeated blows to the back of her head, according to the coroner.
After finding Messel's cell phone near Wilson's feet, investigators with the Indiana State Police visited Messel's home, where they said they discovered blood spatter on the driver's side of his 2012 Kia Sportage and more blood and a clump of black hair on the console inside. Authorities also seized a garbage bag full of clothes that Messel was carrying outside of the residence when police arrived. A probable cause affidavit also states Messel had what appeared to be claw marks on his forearms.
Messel has had several prior arrests for violence against women, including one more than 20 years ago in which a girlfriend told police he battered her and confined her to an apartment. He also was arrested on allegations he beat his grandmother and broke bones in her face, and he later was arrested for felony domestic battery. Messel was sentenced to prison in 1996 for battery and was on probation for six years after his release in 1999.
Lauren Spierer, a 20-year-old Indiana University sophomore from Greenburgh, N.Y., was last seen June 3, 2011, after a night out with friends and acquaintances in downtown Bloomington.
A male acquaintance claimed he watched from his apartment balcony as Spierer – barefoot and without her cell phone – walked home alone in the dark at approximately 4:30 a.m. She never made it.
Despite massive searches by air and land, no traces of Spierer were found and no arrests have been made.
Anyone with information on the Spierer case is urged to call the Bloomington Police Department 24-hour tipline at 812-339-4477 or contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cristina Corbin is a New York-based reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @CristinaCorbin.