FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) — 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. 

AJ went missing while on spring break from Longwood University in 2015. Her body was found a month later behind an abandoned house in Southampton County. Investigators used the GPS in her step-dad’s work van to find her.

The medical examiner ruled AJ died due to homicidal violence and acute heroin poisoning.

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.” 

Hadsell’s defense lawyer said the omicron coronavirus variant almost pushed this trial back further. 

“The judge, the commonwealth and myself had talked about it. And we had talked about should we continue the case or not. But then who knows if in six months or a year it’s going to be better? And Wesley wanted it, so let’s try it” said Ellenson. 

It’s been seven years since AJ died. 

Ellenson said that doesn’t affect the evidence or facts of the case. 

“I think a lot of the evidence in this case is actually documentary, and obviously the autopsy and a lot of those kinds of issues are going to come into play,” Ellenson said.

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

10 On Your Side has been closely following this story for seven years. Our Kayla Gaskins will have extensive coverage of the trial in the coming weeks. 

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