The jury trial of a Norfolk man accused of killing his stepdaughter nearly seven years ago entered day six in Southampton Circuit Court earlier this week.
Wesley Paul Hadsell, 43, was formally charged on January 14, 2019 with the first degree murder of Angelica “AJ” Hadsell on March 3, 2015. Related to the case, he is also charged with murder – non-capital felony, and concealment of a corpse. He pleaded not guilty to all of these charges.
AJ was a spring break freshman at Longwood University in Farmville at the time of his disappearance in 2015.
The search took Norfolk Police investigators and a dive team to a pond off Walters Highway / US Route 258 and Joyners Bridge Road in the Isle of Wight county on April 4, 2015.
Within a week, Norfolk Police came to Southampton County and notified the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office of a body found outside a home in the 34000 block of Smiths Ferry Road / US 258 The body was taken to the medical examiner’s office in Norfolk, where it was positively identified as that of AJ Hadsell.
Wesley Hadsell originally had a trial in this case the week of February 24-28, 2020, but Southampton Circuit Court Judge Lawson Wayne Farmer was forced to declare a mistrial.
Southampton Circuit Court Clerk Richard L. Francis said The news of the tide that Farmer announced on February 26, 2020 that a problem had arisen and the jury had been sent. Essentially, there was a stipulation about what could go into evidence, he said. Southampton County Solicitor Eric A. Cooke filed the motion for a mistrial earlier in the afternoon, and the defense did not oppose it.
“So, in the interests of fairness, the judge declared a mistrial,” Francis said.
Since Hadsell’s arrest for the alleged crimes related to the death of his stepdaughter, he has been charged with selling or distributing a controlled substance and, as a prisoner, with possession of a controlled substance. Annex III.
Hadsell pleaded not guilty to those charges when he was arraigned on October 31, 2019. According to the Virginia Courts Case Information System, a court appearance on November 15, 2021 regarding these charges included a plea, and the result of the charge sale or distribution was nolle prosequi, meaning the prosecution chose not to prosecute at that time. He pleaded guilty to the possession charge and a report was ordered.
On day 6 of the murder trial, January 31, the Southampton County Commonwealth Prosecutor’s Office presented its case, led by Cooke and Deputy Commonwealth Prosecutor Toni M. Colvin.
They featured FBI Special Agent Albert Sena as an expert in data management and analysis.
Sena shared research he had done in relation to a Garmin GPS associated with Wesley Hadsell.
Sena explained how global positioning systems work and that he was able to track the location of this specific Garmin by dates and times from data reported by the device.
He said that on the morning of March 4, 2015, the Garmin was traveling down Smiths Ferry Road, then appeared to leave the road and briefly stop at a residence at 34160 Smiths Ferry Road before returning to the road.
Sena confirmed he was present on April 9, 2015, when AJ Hadsell’s body was found behind a shed that was behind the residence at that same address.
He also tracked the Garmin to a Citgo gas station at 301 E. 2nd Ave. in Franklin on March 4, 2015. He reported that, based on records he was able to obtain, a card with the last four digits matching the one found in Wesley Hadsell’s wallet was used to make a purchase.
After prosecutors finished their questioning, Hadsell’s attorney, James Ellenson, asked Sena why there was only a little location data from the Garmin for March 3 when there was plenty for the March 4.
Sena said he didn’t know and suggested the unit could have been turned off on March 3.
Ellenson asked Sena if he could find and determine the origin of the Garmin on March 4 based on the initial location data available. Sena agreed to research it.
After Ellenson asked about the data relevant to Hadsell’s cellphone, Sena indicated that someone else had focused on that aspect of the investigation, and Ellenson said he would then keep the questions for that person.
Before the court adjourned for the day, the prosecution presented the transcript of a 2015 interview between Wesley Hadsell and television journalist Joe Fisher. The transcript had some portions redacted due to the presence of details that Judge Farmer said would not be shared, but the rest was read aloud, with Colvin reading Fisher’s words and Cooke reading Hadsell’s words. The interview took place while the search for AJ was ongoing.
After the adjournment, Cooke confirmed that the prosecution could finish presenting its case on February 2 or 3.