FRANKLIN, Va. — Key testimony was introduced on Tuesday in the trial against Wesley Hadsell. He is accused of killing his step-daughter AJ Hadsell in 2015 while she was home on spring break from Longwood University.
Some of the pictures and testimony were extremely difficult to listen to. Jurors saw disturbing autopsy photos and heard from AJ’s little sister, Justice.
She cried while the prosecution showed pictures of AJ smiling with a Longwood University coat on. The day AJ went missing, Justice said she came home from school and noticed the family dog outside, and a Bluetooth speaker was left on.
During cross-examination, Justice told jurors she and her mom did find a note on their kitchen counter believed to be from AJ saying she needed a break.
A coworker of Wesley Hadsell told the court, she worked alongside Hadsell for about a month. She said she knew Hadsell used cocaine, but he told her he would never use heroin because his friend died from an overdose. This coworker also knew Hadsell had issues with his family.
She told jurors, Hadsell went to lunch the day AJ went missing and when he returned nearly two hours later he acted skittish, upset, and out of sorts.
She said their boss told Hadsell he could go home.
Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Wendy Gunther also testified on Tuesday. She performed the autopsy on AJ Hadsell in 2015.
Gunther said the AJ’s body was badly decomposed when it arrived at the medical examiner’s office in Norfolk. She said they had to use AJ’s dental records to positively identify her.
She called the autopsy frustrating and difficult. While Gunther was on the stand, the prosecution showed more than 100 extremely graphic photos of AJ during the autopsy and at one point some jurors had to turn their heads.
Hadsell, the man accused of killing AJ, didn’t look up at the photos but at one point started to cry.
Gunther said AJ died from acute heroin poisoning and she had triple the amount of lethal heroin in her body. She also said AJ had several bruises on her body including on her jaw, chest, and around her eyes.
AJ’s college roommate testified that she never saw AJ use drugs and said AJ had big plans for her future. She said AJ was focused on college at Longwood University, and she rarely partied. She told jurors AJ was an extremely organized person and she didn’t believe or know her to be suicidal.
The next person planned to testify for the prosecution is a detective. The trial is expected to last about a month.