FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) — Monday marked a busy day for the murder trial of Wesley Hadsell: the jury was selected and seated, both sides gave opening statements and the commonwealth’s first witness took the stand.
Hadsell is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and concealment of a body for the death of his 18-year-old stepdaughter Angelica “AJ” Hadsell.
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.
The medical examiner ruled AJ died due to homicidal violence and acute heroin poisoning.
During Monday’s opening statements, the Commonwealth said her Wesley Hadsell killed AJ and the evidence will prove it. Prosecutors painted AJ as a good girl, a go-getter, a college student with plans for the future.
The defense took the opportunity to point out other theories of what may have happened to AJ and who could have killed her in an attempt to show reasonable doubt to the jury.
Hadsell maintains his innocence on all charges, but the defense took another interesting tactic during their opening.
Defense Attorney James Ellenson acknowledged the jury may find Hadsell guilty of concealment of a body but said there’s no evidence for the murder charges.
After opening statements, the Commonwealth called their first witness, Sergeant David Benjamin from the Norfolk Police Department.
Benjamin explained to the jury how police found AJ’s body by following the GPS history from the Garmin in Hadsell’s work van.
The Commonwealth also had a series of photographs from the search and the scene where the body was found behind the abandoned home to accompany Benjamin’s testimony. Because the body was so decomposed, it was often difficult to tell what was what from the photos.
Hadsell did not look up at the pictures of AJ’s body projected on the screen.
The cross-examination got a little heated.
Defense Attorney James Ellenson called Sgt Benjamin a liar at one point during questioning about a search of AJ’s dorm room.
Testimony will continue with the Commonwealth’s next witness Tuesday morning.