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Wesley Hadsell sentenced to life plus 15 years for killing his stepdaughter, AJ Hadsell

Wesley Hadsell was found guilty of First-degree Murder and Concealment of a Dead Body in February 2022.

SOUTHAMPTON COUNTY, Va. — A judge ruled the man convicted of murdering his teenage step-daughter will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

On Monday, Wesley Hadsell was sentenced to life in prison, plus 15 years, for killing 18-year-old AJ Hadsell in 2015. 

Before his sentencing, the judge noted that the evidence against Hadsell was "overwhelming." The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office for Southampton County & The City of Franklin sought a life sentence for the first-degree murder, as well as five years for concealing the body and 10 years for being caught with illegal substances while incriminated. 

The immediate family of Hadsell was not in attendance. Commonwealth Attorney Eric Cooke told 13News Now emotions were too high and too raw to be present in the courtroom Monday afternoon. 

Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Toni Colvin said inside the Franklin courtroom that Hadsell "cannot be rehabilitated," citing a history of "hurting women" and other crimes dating back to the late 1990s. She said that Hadsell made deliberate and calculated moves throughout the crime and investigation.

A tense moment arose when Zach Hoffer, AJ's stepfather before Wesley Hadsell, was prepared to make a testimony before the judge's sentencing. Hadsell's attorney, James Ellenson, objected in which the judge sustained the motion, after which Hoffer had to be forcibly removed by authorities from the courtroom after yelling expletives toward Hadsell.

Just before sentencing, Hadsell was allowed to speak and maintained his innocence by citing his personal relationship with AJ. 

The judge told Hadsell he did not "accept one word" Hadsell had to say, adding that everything the step-father said "angered" him, and called him a "danger to the community."

"We still maintain our innocence and will appeal the case. We were sort of expecting life sentence but Wesley-- as you’ve heard-- still maintains his innocence. So, we’re going to keep fighting," Ellenson said in a statement outside the courtroom to 13News Now. 

Investigators found her body behind an abandoned home in Southampton County, weeks after she disappeared in Norfolk. The medical examiner said she died from heroin poisoning.

Earlier this year, Hadsell was found guilty of first-degree murder and concealment of a dead body.

Prosecutors believe Hadsell purchased heroin from his drug dealer and forced AJ to take the drug after abducting her.

During Hadsell's trial, his defense attorneys argued AJ committed suicide by using a medication she took for headaches. The medical examiner didn’t test for that prescription in her body.

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