FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) — The second-degree murder charge Wesley Hadsell faced in the death of his stepdaughter AJ was dropped on Friday after prosecutors were unable to prove he gave her the heroin that led to her death.
Hadsell however still could be convicted of first-degree murder and disposal of a body.
The development came a day after the defense rested in the trial, which started two weeks ago in Southampton County.
Wesley Hadsell is accused of killing 18-year-old AJ back in 2015 while she was on spring break from Longwood University. Her body was found a month after her disappearance at an abandoned home in Southampton County, after investigators used GPS in Wesley Hadsell’s work van.
The medical examiner ruled AJ died due to homicidal violence and acute heroin poisoning.
It’s still unclear how the heroin got into AJ’s system, as she didn’t have a drug use history or detectable needle marks. The defense has argued that AJ had suicidal thoughts before her death. Her autopsy also could not ruled out asphyxia by smothering or strangling.
On Friday, prosecutors called a few rebuttal witnesses, including two FBI agents involved in the case and the lead detective from Norfolk police. All witnesses answered one or two questions to clarify evidence.
The defense didn’t call any witnesses.
After the close of evidence Friday morning, Hadsell’s defense lawyer filed a motion to dismiss the second-degree felony homicide murder
Hadsell had three charges: first-degree murder, second-degree murder and concealment of a body.
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.