SOUTHAMPTON COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — On Tuesday, attorneys gave their opening statements and the first witnesses were called for the murder trial of Wesley Hadsell in Southampton County.
Hadsell is charged in connection with the death of his 18-year-old stepdaughter, AJ Hadsell, back in 2015. Tuesday was the second day of what’s expected to be a two-week trial.
During the commonwealth’s opening statements, prosecutors gave an overview of the evidence they’ll present at trial. Prosecutors acknowledged proving “why” Hadsell killed his stepdaughter will be difficult, but said the evidence presented will prove he is guilty.
The defense’s opening statements went next, giving some insight into what their strategy will be during the trial. They said they’re going to show a different side of AJ than the one the prosecution is painting. Hadsell’s lawyers showed glimpses of evidence AJ was possibility suicidal when she disappeared, reading out loud entries from her journal to show she was upset over a relationship. They also showed text messages where she told her boyfriend she was on antidepressants.
The first witness called by the commonwealth Tuesday was Sgt. Benjamin with Norfolk Police. Benjamin was the homicide detective assigned the the case. He testified to how they eventually found AJ’s body in Southampton County by using the GPS history on Hadsell’s work truck.
Benjamin also said he was the one who first found AJ’s body when they searched the property they were lead to by the GPS. This was five weeks after AJ first went missing. He found her in a drainage ditch behind an abandoned home on Smithsferry Road, partially buried and under a piece of plywood. She was wearing the same outfit Wesley Hadsell had described her as wearing the last time he saw her. During this testimony, the prosecution showed graphic photographs of the scene when AJ’s body was found.
When AJ’s younger half-sister, Justice Hoffer, took the stand, she said AJ’s texts the day she went missing were odd and didn’t sound like her. Justice testified she’s convinced Wesley Hadsell killed her sister.
The last witness of the day was AJ’s mother, Jennifer Hadsell. She also testified AJ’s texts seemed “off” that day and she was immediately worried.
Jennifer was asked about a note she found on their kitchen table the day AJ disappeared. It read “Dear Madre, with everything that’s going on it’s a lot to deal with.” From what she could tell, she said it was her daughter’s handwriting.
The testimony continues Wednesday.
WAVY News will be back in the courtroom and will continue to bring you the latest developments.