D.C. lawyer David Messerschmitt texted his wife at 7:34 p.m. Monday, saying he’d be home in about an hour, according to police documents. That was the last time his family heard from the 30-year-old, who was found fatally stabbed the next morning in a downtown Washington hotel room.
Minutes after that text, an unidentified person being sought for questioning in the death walked into the lobby of the Donovan hotel at Thomas Circle, according to surveillance video released by District police.
Messerschmitt’s wife, Kim Vuong, called police about 1:50 a.m. Tuesday to report him missing, saying he had not returned to their Capitol Hill apartment that night. His body was found later that morning in a fourth-floor room.
In filing the missing person report, Vuong told authorities that it was “not like” her husband to disappear and that “he usually beats her home and would notify her if anything was to change.” She told police that “everything seemed fine today” when they talked by phone. The couple lived in an apartment on East Capitol Street near Stanton Park.
The new details fill in some of the timeline of events leading to the mysterious death of the intellectual property lawyer, who worked at the international law firm DLA Piper. Police say they do not know what Messerschmitt was doing at the hotel or why he was killed. Neither his family nor his co-workers have talked publicly about the victim or the case.
On Wednesday, police released several still photos and a video from hotel surveillance cameras showing a person in a hooded jacket pacing the lobby and at one point pressing an elevator button. The person is also seen climbing a stairwell. The hotel elevators must be activated with a room keycard, making it difficult for visitors to get to guest floors without being escorted.
It is unclear whether the person is male or female; at one point, the person puts a hand over his or her face. Police did not elaborate on why they think the person may be linked to Messerschmitt’s death. Police are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Authorities would not comment further on the investigation.
Messerschmitt grew up in suburban Cincinnati and attended Boston University School of Law and Ohio State University, where he met his wife. They married in July 2012 at the Cincinnati Center for Contemporary Arts. Messerschmitt worked for a law firm in Chicago and two in Washington, starting last year at DLA Piper, one of the country’s largest.
Messerschmitt interned during the summer of 2007 for U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott, who serves in the southern district of Ohio. The judge said she met his parents, Gayle and Marvin Messerschmitt, at a function held by a mutual friend.
“He was an exceptional intern,” Dlott said. “He was particularly bright, one of the best I ever had. He had very good analytical skills and a wonderful demeanor. He was kind and quiet, and had a good sense of humor.”
Dlott said that after Messerschmitt was reported missing, his parents flew to Washington, joining his brother, who lives in New York. “They were beside themselves,” the judge said.
Dlott said that she called DLA Piper and was told that Messerschmitt had been at work Monday and left the office in the 500 block of Eighth Street NW, near Gallery Place, at 5:30 p.m. A D.C. police report says Vuong last saw her husband Sunday, although the precise time was unclear.
The Donovan, on Thomas Circle in the 1100 block of 14th Street NW, is about a mile from the law firm and can be reached on foot or by driving up Massachusetts Avenue.
A report obtained by The Washington Post states that Messerschmitt texted his wife at 7:34 p.m. Monday, saying he expected to be home by 8:30 p.m.
The video that shows the person of interest entering the hotel is time-stamped 7:44 p.m., although a second video showing the person climbing stairs is stamped 7:40 p.m.
Police officials initially said that Messerschmitt had been reported missing by relatives 24 hours before he was found dead, but records indicate that his body was discovered in Room 400 less than 10 hours after the missing person report was filed.
A police inventory of the room’s contents includes a bag, gloves, an umbrella, flip-flops, earmuffs, shorts, a jacket, deodorant, keys, vitamins and shampoo. A police official said that list is not complete.
Dlott said of Messerschmitt’s death: “I’m just devastated by this. I’ve had lots of interns. He was exceptional. . . . He was everything you would want in your child. He was like the perfect kid.”