When 18-year-old college student Anjelica “AJ” Hadsell disappeared in March 2015 during spring break in Norfolk, Virginia, her adopted stepfather father Welsey Hadsell organized a search party. Soon enough, however, suspicion mounted surrounding his involvement in her demise.
AJ was a star athlete who was well-loved by her peers and community. She was attending Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia studying information technology and computer programming at the time of her disappearance. She had a bright future that was cut tragically short.
Before she disappeared she left her family a note that read: “With everything going on, it’s a lot to deal with.” AJ’s mother and sisters had no idea what the cryptic message meant.
In the days following her disappearance, AJ was still answering texts sent to her cell phone. Then, communication ceased altogether. Her mother Jennifer suspected that someone else was texting on AJ’s phone.
Despite the extensive search AJ’s stepfather spearheaded, it took police a month to find her body. She was partially buried in a drainage ditch behind an abandoned house 50 miles away from her home. She had a lethal amount of heroin in her body, but her family and friends say she wasn’t a drug user.
During the search for AJ, Wesley would send the police tips he said others were giving him, and he pointed toward a man named Corey as a potential suspect.
Wesley Hadsells had been spirally
At the time, Wesley was in a rough place in life. His wife, AJ’s mother, had kicked him out of the home because of an uncontrollable drug addiction.
He had legally adopted AJ just a few years before when she got her driver’s permit. She had stopped using her biological father’s last name years ago and wanted to legally have the Hadsell name.
While Wesley was incarcerated for an unrelated charge, police obtained a warrant to search Wesley Hadsell’s work van where they found a shovel, dirt residue, gloves, and duct tape. GPS tracking let the investigators to the abandoned house where AJ was found.
How did AJ really die
Although AJ was found to have heroin intoxication, her autopsy indicated that her cause of death was both heroin poisoning and “homicidal violence.” They were unable to determine if she had been sexually assaulted because of the state of her body’s decomposition, but her pants were pulled own, and she was found face down.
Wesley Hadsell charged
Wesley Hadsell was formally charged with AJ’s murder in 2018 after police found GPS evidence that he had driven to AJ’s death site in his work van two days after she went missing.
Wesley’s first trial in 2020 ended in a mistrial over a disagreement about how much of Wesley’s criminal past could be brought up in the trial. He had previously kidnapped his estranged wife in Ohio and robbed a bank in Virginia.
During is second trial in 2022, Wesley’s defence team argued that AJ was depressed over a boyfriend and had intentionally took her own life with a heroin overdose.
Wesley Hadsell was found guilty of first-degree murder and concealment of a body in February, 2022, almost seven years after Anjelica’s death. It took jurors only 45 minutes of deliberation to reach a guilty verdict.
Tonight’s Dateline, titled “The Jacket” explores the death of AJ Hadsell and speaks with her adopted stepfather Wesley, who is currently serving time for her murder. The episode airs at 8/9 c on NBC and will be available the next day on the Peacock streaming service.