A Virginia man was found guilty of murdering his adopted stepdaughter by forcefully giving her a lethal dose of heroin.
On Monday, jurors took 45 minutes to find 43-year-old Wesley Hadsell guilty of first-degree murder and concealment of a body, according to WAVY 10. It was the second time Wesley stood trial for the murder of his adopted daughter, 18-year-old Angelica Hadsell
Angelica disappeared while visiting her parents’ home in the Tarrallton area of Norfolk in March 2015, according to the Norfolk Police Department. She’d returned home for spring break from Longwood University, where she was a freshman.
Hadsell quickly became a suspect in Angelica's disappearance; he'd adopted his stepdaughter in 2012, according to The Virginia Pilot. As part of a missing persons investigation, police searched Hadsell's van and found a roll of duct tape, work gloves, and a shovel. The GPS unit led investigators to an abandoned house near the North Carolina border.
One month after Angelica’s disappearance, authorities found her partially buried body on the Southampton County property where Wesley’s van had been parked, about 50 miles from her parents’ home.
An autopsy case summary revealed Angelica’s body was face-down under a piece of plywood near the edge of a muddy creek, according to WAVY. The victim died as a result of “homicidal violence” and acute heroin poisoning. The Virginia Pilot reported she had triple the lethal amount of heroin in her system, and her eyes and chin were bruised.
The medical examiner could not determine whether or not Angelica was sexually assaulted because of the postmortem damage inflicted to her body by animals and insects. Her sweatpants had been pulled down below her buttocks, according to The Virginia Pilot.f
Wesley was charged with Angelica’s murder in 2018.
Photo: Western Tidewater Regional Jail
A 2020 trial ended with a mistrial just days after it began when the commonwealth’s attorney filed for one, according to 13 News Now. Attorneys could not agree on which parts of Wesley’s criminal history jurors would be allowed to hear.
Wesley’s criminal history included charges of kidnapping his estranged wife in Ohio and a bank robbery conviction in Virginia, according to CBS affiliate WBNS.
Wesley’s second trial began just over two weeks ago.
Prosecutors argued that Wesley was kicked out of his wife’s home days before Angelica’s disappearance for his erratic behavior and alleged drug dependency. They claimed Wesley abducted Angelica from the home while she was folding laundry so he could sexually assault her.
Police learned Hadsell was living at a local motel, where they found heroin and 9mm ammunition, according to The Virginia Pilot. There, cadaver dogs picked up the scent of human decomposition.
“It was his last chance to be with AJ," said prosecutor Eric Cooke in his opening statements. "He wanted something. She didn’t.”
Cooke added that Wesley discarded Angelica “like trash,” according to the Pilot.
The defense, however, painted Angelica as a woman in the throes of depression following a recent breakup with her boyfriend, claiming she took her own life by overdosing on heroin. According to the Pilot, Angelica’s mother, Jennifer Wright, testified that her daughter was a happy woman.
A postmortem hair analysis proved Angelica did not have a history of drug abuse, according to WAVY.
The defense argued that the medical examiner failed to check for Northroptyline in their toxicology report, which Angelica could have theoretically overdosed on, according to WAVY. During the trial, former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam testified that he’d prescribed the anti-depressant to Angelica to help treat migraines when he was her pediatric neurologist in Norfolk. Northam denied that his patient lived with depression.
“He abused her, he beat her, and then he poisoned her with heroin,” Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Toni Colvin told jurors.
On Monday, Wesley shook his head when the guilty verdicts were read aloud.
Wesley Hadsell’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 4. He faces life behind bars.