AJ HADSELL: Virginia vs. Wesley Hadsell for 2015 murder of stepdaughter *GUILTY*

New trial date set after mistrial declared this week for Wesley Hadsell

Wesley Hadsell has a new trial date after the first trial attempt ended in a mistrial earlier this week.

The next trial will now begin May 19 and is expected to last for three weeks.

Hadsell faces murder charges for the 2015 death of his 18-year-old stepdaughter, AJ Hadsell.

On Monday morning, the prosecution and defense were ready to go. A jury of 12 was selected and seated. The next day began with opening statements then the commonwealth called their first four witnesses: the Norfolk homicide detective assigned to the case and AJ’s college roommate, mother and younger sister.

Then Wednesday morning, everything came to a halt.

After hearing the first few witnesses testify, Hadsell decided he didn’t want to keep an agreement his defense team made with prosecution regarding what parts of his criminal record would be allowed to be brought up during the trial.

There wasn’t time for prosecutors to restructure their case without the evidence that was allowed under the agreement, so they requested a mistrial and the judge granted the request.

The judge also made it clear during Friday’s hearing that for the new trial, there will be no unofficial agreements between the two sides. Every agreement must be in writing, signed, and handed over to the court.

Hadsell will be back in court for two pretrial motions hearings. The first of those will be March 11.


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Three years after her mysterious 2015 disappearance, ‘Dad’ charged with killing adopted daughter, concealing her in ditch

A man was indicted Monday by a Southampton County, Virginia, grand jury in the mysterious 2015 slaying of his 18-year-old adoptive step-daughter, who was found buried in a ditch outside of an abandoned home, according to authorities.

Wesley Paul Hadsell, 40, faces one count each of first-degree murder, second-degree felony murder, and felony concealment of a dead body in the death of 18-year-old Anjelica “AJ” Hadsell, according to 8News.

Police quickly identified Wesley Hadsell as a person of interest and obtained a search warrant, the newspaper reported.

A.J. Hadsell had been missing several weeks when police seized Wesley Hadsell’s 2004 Chevy Astro van and found a shovel, a roll of duct tape and black work gloves inside. The Pilot added that Wesley Hadsell reportedly told authorities he was the only person who had access to the vehicle.

According to the newspaper, police used data from a GPS device inside the van to determine the vehicle had been parked for about 20 minutes behind an abandoned house south of Franklin, near the North Carolina border.

Police went to the house and found what looked like shovel marks in the dirt and the body of a woman, later identified by a medical examiner as A.J. Hadsell. The teen was“partially buried” in a ditch, the newspaper reported.

During a police interview two days after A.J. Hadsell vanished, Wesley Hadsell reportedly said he last saw his daughter on March 2 around 12:30 p.m. when he gave her $200 at a gas station on Tidewater Drive in Southampton County.

However, when police reportedly reviewed video surveillance footage from the gas station they found no evidence Wesley Hadsell or his daughter had been there.

It appears Wesley Hadsell “tried to establish the alibi that he was back at work, and had last seen Anjelica Hadsell prior to the time of her abduction and murder,” a detective wrote in court documents obtained by The Pilot.


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Wesley Hadsell’s murder trial pushed back to March 2021

Wesley Hadsell, the man accused of killing his adopted stepdaughter back in 2015 and leaving her body in Southampton County, will now go to trial in March 2021.

The trial was scheduled to start in September 2020, but was pushed back on Thursday in a pretrial hearing due to COVID-19-related trial issues. However, he is expected to be back in court Sept. 29 for a full day of motions.

Hadsell’s murder trial will now be March 1-26.

In court Thursday morning, attorneys agreed having their first big trial since the pandemic in just a few months wasn’t feasible.

They raised concerns about witnesses coming from other states, and even some having to fly.
There were also worries about jury attentiveness and the space required for everyone to fit in the courtroom while social distancing.

Hadsell’s last trial in February was declared a mistrial, after he walked back an agreement with the prosecution about what parts of his criminal record would be allowed to be brought up during the trial.

18-year-old AJ Hadsell vanished while she was home in Norfolk on spring break in March 2015, and investigators found her body a month later behind an abandoned home in Southampton County, nearly 50 miles away.

A medical examiner determined she died as a result of homicidal violence and acute heroin poisoning, and Wesley Hadsell was charged with her murder three years later.


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Wesley Hadsell back in court ahead of upcoming murder trial in Southampton County​

Wesley Hadsell, the man accused of killing his 19-year-old step-daughter AJ Hadsell back in 2015 went before a Southampton County Judge on Monday with more pre-trial requests.

Hadsell appeared in-person rather than through video conference. His defense lawyer said there was no way this hearing could go forward without Hadsell physically present.

His defense lawyer wants limitations placed on what statements the commonwealth’s attorney and can present as evidence in the upcoming trial.

The statements in question on Monday included alleged statements Hadsell made to witnesses, to police, and to reporters during media interviews.


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The trial for a Norfolk man accused of killing his stepdaughter nearly six years ago has been moved — yet again — this time from this March 1 to Jan. 19, 2022, and is expected to last a month. There had been several continuances in 2020. The new date has been confirmed by the Southampton County Courthouse and Virginia Courts website.


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After previous mistrial, new murder trial to start for Wesley Hadsell; accused of murdering stepdaughter in 2015​

A new trial began Wednesday for Wesley Hadsell, the man accused of killing his stepdaughter, Anjelica “AJ” Hadsell.

Jury selection began Wednesday. Opening arguments in the case are expected to begin in the case on Monday.

Because the Southampton County Courthouse is currently closed, the trial is taking place in a makeshift courtroom in an old elementary school in Franklin.

This will be the second attempt at a trial for Hadsell. The first murder trial was in 2020, but a judge granted a mistrial after just two and a half days, citing issues with Hadsell’s criminal history and ties to the Aryan Brotherhood, a violent white supremacy prison gang categorized as a gang and domestic terrorist organization by the Department of Justice.

In the meantime, last year Hadsell was found guilty of giving another inmate drugs while in jail.

Hadsell maintains his innocence on the charges related to AJ’s death.

“Wes is not guilty of these charges, that’s for sure,” said defense lawyer James Ellenson. “I don’t think the commonwealth is going to be able to prove that he’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The judge said this trial is expected to last three to four weeks.


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Monday marked a busy day for the murder trial of Wesley Hadsell: the jury was selected and seated, both sides gave opening statements and the commonwealth’s first witness took the stand.

Day four of the murder trial of Wesley Hadsell continued in Franklin on Tuesday.

The days started with three hours of extensive testimony from the medical examiner Dr. Wendy Gunther, who unpacked the autopsy results. She explained her conclusion that AJ died of heroin poisoning. According to Gunther AJ had nearly triple the lethal dose of heroin in her system. Graphic images were projected onto the big screen. Hadsell didn’t look up and periodically reached for tissues during Gunther’s testimony.

The most emotional testimony of the day came from AJ’s little sister, now-21-year-old Justice Hoffer.


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Trial of Wesley Hadsell, accused of killing stepdaughter, heats up​

In the trial against Wesley Hadsell, people have come forward to talk about what Hadsell did right after his stepdaughter, AJ Hadsell, disappeared in March 2015.

Investigators found the 18-year-old's body more than a month later behind an abandoned home in Southampton County. The medical examiner said she died from heroin poisoning.

Two Norfolk Police investigators testified on Thursday, saying when they talked to Wesley Hadsell after AJ’s disappearance, he had no emotion and acted extremely calm.

David Lefleur, a Norfolk Police sergeant, said Hadsell laid on AJ’s bed during an interview and changed his story several times. He also said Hadsell referred to AJ in past tense, and told him AJ never did any drugs.

Another Norfolk Police Investigator, Brandon Shum, said every time he tried to talk to AJ’s mom, Jennifer, Wesley Hadsell would interrupt and talk over her.

A cadaver dog trainer testified and said her dog, Sam, smelled human remains in Hadsell’s hotel room and in a blue mini van. (We don’t know who owned the van.)

Wesley Hadsell’s attorney said this trial is moving faster than expected. He believes all the evidence in the case could be presented by the end of next week.


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Court officials expect this trial to last another week and a half. The prosecution is expected to rest its case by Thursday.


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Wesley Hadsell declines to testify in his own defense at murder trial for death of adopted daughter​

The defense in the Wesley Hadsell murder trial rested Thursday after calling five brief witnesses to testify.

Hadsell — who is accused of killing his 18-year-old adopted daughter in 2015 and then dumping her body behind an abandoned house — didn’t take the witness stand. When defense attorney James Ellenson asked him to state on the record whether he planned to testify in his own defense, Hadsell paused for several seconds before saying he didn’t.


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Second-degree murder charge dropped for Wesley Hadsell; still facing first-degree murder charge in stepdaughter's death​

A charge of second-degree murder was dropped against Wesley Hadsell, who is currently facing trial for the 2015 disappearance and death of his stepdaughter, Anjelica "AJ" Hadsell.

Hadsell still faces charges of first-degree murder and concealing a dead body regarding AJ's death.

After the close of evidence, the defense asked the judge to drop the second-degree murder charge saying the commonwealth didn’t prove this charge. The commonwealth’s attorney and judge agreed. The second-degree murder charge was dropped. This charge carried a maximum of 40 years in prison.

The more serious first-degree murder charge still stands and carries with it a possible life sentence for Hadsell.

The commonwealth said they don’t feel like dropping the second-degree murder charge is negative to their case and they are still confident the jury will convict Hadsell and send him to prison for life for AJ’s death.

Hadsell’s defense attorney said they’re feeling optimistic about the judge agreeing to drop the second-degree murder charge.

Closing arguments will take place Monday then the case is handed to the jury for deliberation.


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Exclusive jailhouse interview: Wesley Hadsell discusses conviction, plans for appeal in murder trial​

Wesley Hadsell sat down with 10 On Your Side this week at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail to discuss his murder trial, conviction, and plans for appeal.

During our conversation, Hadsell maintained he did not kill AJ. He said he plans to file an appeal.

“I would not have put my daughter out there like trash in someone’s backyard and left her there like that,” said Hadsell.

He stood stoic as court officials read out the guilty verdict.

“I wasn’t going to break down. I’m not going to accept that verdict,” said Hadsell. “I wasn’t going to accept it because it’s not true.”

After more than two weeks of testimony, it took the jury only 41 minutes to convict Hadsell of both charges — unusually quick in a case this complex.

“Their minds were 100% made up before they deliberated,” said Hadsell. “It didn’t make sense to come back that quick. This wasn’t a clear-cut case.”

We asked if he was surprised by the verdict.

“It came back so fast, not really,” Hadsell responded.

It took three years for Hadsell to be charged with AJ’s murder. The prosecution’s case against him was mostly circumstantial. There was no “smoking gun.” During the trial, the prosecution didn’t prove how Hadsell gave AJ the heroin that killed her.

The most damming evidence against Hadsell was the fact police found AJ’s body by following the GPS history on Hadsell’s work van from the days following her disappearance.

So how did AJ’s body get behind that house? Hadsell says he has no idea. He only says he was never at that house. Hadsell points out the GPS on his work van was detachable. We asked if he thought someone was framing him.

“There’s other things at play here that I can’t speak on because I don’t know,” he said.

In the state of Virginia, the prosecution doesn’t have to prove a motive in murder cases. This worked in the prosecution’s favor for this case because there’s no clear motive for why Hadsell would have killed his stepdaughter. The commonwealth theorized the murder may have been sexually motivated. AJ’s body was so decomposed by the time she was found that the medical examiner said we’ll never know for sure if she was sexually assaulted before her death.

Hadsell says this theory makes him extremely angry, “because they’re trying to make something out of something that isn’t true. I mean people who know me know I have values. I have morals. That is something I take as very serious. That is absolutely disgusting that they even tried to make that connection.”

Hadsell’s sentencing hearing is set for April 4.


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Wesley Hadsell sentenced to life plus 15 years for killing his stepdaughter, AJ Hadsell​

A judge ruled the man convicted of murdering his teenage step-daughter will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

On Monday, Wesley Hadsell was sentenced to life in prison, plus 15 years, for killing 18-year-old AJ Hadsell in 2015.

Before his sentencing, the judge noted that the evidence against Hadsell was "overwhelming." The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office for Southampton County & The City of Franklin sought a life sentence for the first-degree murder, as well as five years for concealing the body and 10 years for being caught with illegal substances while incriminated.

Just before sentencing, Hadsell was allowed to speak and maintained his innocence by citing his personal relationship with AJ.

The judge told Hadsell he did not "accept one word" Hadsell had to say, adding that everything the step-father said "angered" him, and called him a "danger to the community."

"We still maintain our innocence and will appeal the case. We were sort of expecting life sentence but Wesley-- as you’ve heard-- still maintains his innocence. So, we’re going to keep fighting," Ellenson said in a statement outside the courtroom to 13News Now.

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Kathleen Unterberger