FRANKLIN, Va. — A jury has convicted Wesley Hadsell of killing his stepdaughter in 2015.
Hadsell was found guilty of first-degree murder and concealment of a dead body.
18-year-old AJ Hadsell's body was found in Southampton County in 2015, weeks after she disappeared in Norfolk.
The jury handed down the verdict after a multi-week trial ended with only a few hours of deliberation.
During closing arguments on Monday, prosecutors said overwhelming evidence proved Hadsell murdered AJ and then dumped her body behind an abandoned home.
The deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney told jurors, “we may never truly understand why this happened.”
AJ died from heroin poisoning according to the medical examiner, which prosecutors believe Hadsell purchased from his drug dealer and forced AJ to take the drug after abducting her.
Hadsell’s phone, GPS and bank statements put him in Southampton County two days after AJ disappeared.
The defense argued AJ committed suicide by using a medication she took for headaches. The medical examiner didn’t test for that prescription in her body.
Hadsell’s attorney, James Ellenson, told jurors they should be skeptical of what Norfolk Police detectives said while testifying.
He also called testimony from an FBI agent “worthless.”
Ellenson said many of the details in this case don’t match up and that the prosecution “cherry-picked” the information they wanted to show jurors.
While the jury convicted Hadsell on two charges, the judge on Friday dismissed Hadsell’s second-degree murder charge, because prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence.
Hadsell's sentencing is scheduled for April 4, 2022. He could face life in prison.