FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) — The defense rested their case Thursday in the murder trial of Wesley Hadsell.
It didn’t take long for the defense to present their side. Attorney James Ellenson called their first witness around 10:30 a.m. and rested a few hours later.
Hadsell faces two murder charges and concealment of a body charge for the death of his 18-year-old stepdaughter, AJ Hadsell, back 2015.
Hadsell ultimately decided not to testify in his own defense. According to Ellenson, Hadsell had been back and forth on whether or not to testify. Ellenson strongly advised against it but said he wasn’t 100% sure what Hadsell was going to say when asked about testifying Thursday afternoon in court. After a dramatic 10-second pause, Hadsell told the judge no, he wasn’t found to take the stand.
The defense’s first witness was a neighbor who lived right next door to the Hadsell’s in 2015.
The neighbor said he spotted a small white compact car in the driveway of the Hadsell residence the day AJ went missing. He said the car was parked there around 12:30-1 p.m. He’s sure of the time because that’s when his fiancé always leaves for work and he walks her out to her car.
He couldn’t say anything specific about the car, just that he noticed it there. None of the Hadsells own cars match that description.
The 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. time frame is important because that fits into when police believe AJ was taken from the residence.
The neighbor stated he didn’t have security cameras when AJ went missing on March 2, 2015 but he did go purchase and install cameras outside his home shortly after.
He said Hadsell asked him to turn off the cameras soon after he put them in, saying people were visiting who didn’t want to be filmed.
The neighbor told Hadsell “no” and kept the cameras on.
The defense also called AJ’s ex-boyfriend Josh Campbell back to the stand. Campbell already testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial.
Campbell said he and AJ were “on a break” when she went missing on March 2, 2015. He said the split was amicable.
The defense asked Campbell about a text message exchanged between the two before she disappeared.
One message in particular from Josh to AJ read in part “I can’t have you waiting on me. You don’t deserve that. I know you feel otherwise.”
The purpose of calling Campbell to the stand appears to go along with the defense’s suicide theory. The text messages appear to show AJ maybe didn’t want the breakup.
During cross-examination, the prosecution read more text messages between the two from the days before AJ disappeared where they both said they still loved each other.
Next, the defense showed a slideshow of photos downloaded to AJ’s phone off of Tumblr the night and morning before she disappeared.
The photos are memes with sad and suicidal themes. They’re sad images with captions like “you act like everything is OK so no one has to worry about you” and “have you had suicide feelings lately.”
So what happens now that both sides have rested?
The commonwealth will call rebuttal witnesses tomorrow morning. The defense said they may also call some rebuttal witnesses.
The lawyers expect closing arguments to take place Monday.