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Jury seated in Wesley Hadsell murder trial

Opening statements began in the trial against Wesley Hadsell. The first witness to take the stand was a sergeant with the Norfolk Police Department.

FRANKLIN, Va. — A jury is seated and opening statements in the murder trial of Wesley Hadsell began in Southampton County on Monday.

Back in 2015, his stepdaughter, 18-year-old AJ Hadsell, disappeared from Norfolk. She was a Longwood University student and was a double major.

AJ was missing for about five weeks. Investigators later found her body in Southampton County.

RELATED: After mistrial, second trial begins for Wesley Hadsell, accused of murdering stepdaughter

During opening statements, one of the prosecutors said Wesley Hadsell adopted AJ years prior.

The prosecution said in 2015, AJ’s mom kicked Wesley out of the house due to him using drugs. He stayed at a nearby hotel. According to the prosecution, AJ was a healthy teenager and played softball and volleyball.

Opening statements went on to say Wesley Hadsell worked for an AC company.

On the morning of her disappearance, he stopped by the home he used to live in, and where AJ was, to pick up his work truck. The prosecution said surveillance video from a nearby gas station shows Hadsell returning to the house.

According to the prosecution, when he went back to work, his boss questioned him, and Hadsell said he had to meet AJ at a gas station to give her money. The prosecution got the video surveillance from that gas station and said they found that to be a lie.

The prosecution said Wesley planted several pieces of evidence, including AJ’s cell phone on the side of a road. He told investigators he received tips about the items and went and searched for them.

Attorney James Ellenson, who is representing Hadsell, told jurors there’s no direct evidence his client murdered AJ. He said there are several different possibilities of how she could have died, even saying it could have been an accident.

He explained to jurors about the charges and said they are independent charges. He said Wesley adopted AJ in 2015.

Ellenson told jurors Wesley got kicked out of his home because he went through his wife’s devices and found she was having an affair. 

He also said AJ suffered from a head injury and Dr. Ralph Northam, Virginia’s former governor, prescribed her medicine that could cause suicidal thoughts. He said during a CHKD interview with AJ’s younger sister, the sister told the experts AJ may have committed suicide.

The first witness to take the stand for the Commonwealth was Norfolk Police Sergeant David Benjamin.

Benjamin said that in 2015, he found AJ Hadsell’s body underneath some plywood behind an abandoned home in Southampton County.

The prosecution showed where detectives found AJ’s body and what it looked like. Those photos made some jurors visibility upset.

Most of AJ’s body was decomposed. You could see she was face down, with missing hair and black boots and leggings on.

Hadsell never looked up at the pictures and stared at the desk in front of him, often writing something down on paper.

Benjamin said he and other investigators found AJ’s remains after searching Hadsell’s work GPS.

He said the GPS coordinates showed Hadsell spent 20 minutes at the abandoned home in Franklin, which is where they found AJ’s body.

The medical examiner determined AJ died from acute heroin poisoning.

According to the prosecution, Hadsell bought heroin and cocaine from a drug dealer the morning AJ disappeared.

This trial is expected to last about four weeks.

Wesley Hadsell is already in prison serving a 10-year sentence for an unrelated federal ammunition charge that dates back to 2013.

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