NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk police confirm the human remains found in Franklin Thursday belong to 18-year-old Anjelica “AJ” Hadsell, who has been missing since March 2.
Norfolk police said their investigation into AJ’s disappearance led them to the house at 34160 Smiths Ferry Road, in Southampton County. Human remains were found around 10 a.m. Thursday outside a shed in the backyard of the residence.
The city’s medical examiner identified the remains Friday, according to Norfolk Police Department spokeswoman Melinda Wray.
AJ’s mother, Jennifer Hadsell, sent the following statement to WAVY’s Joe Fisher after the identification:
I would like to express my deepest appreciation for the Norfolk PD, the FBI, Search & Rescue, the media and the public for their superb dedication to this case and finding my daughter, AJ. It has been confirmed by the coroner’s office that [the remains are] in fact AJ. Please respect this time, as we need to release emotionally. Your prayers are appreciated.
AJ Hadsell, a Norview High School graduate and Longwood University freshman, was home on spring break when she disappeared. She was last seen by a neighbor on Millard Street near her Norfolk home around 2 p.m. March 2.
Wray said police now focused on helping the Hadsell family get closure through their investigation of AJ’s death. Along with the identification announcement Friday, Wray released the following statement on behalf of the NPD:
Chief of Police Michael Goldsmith and the dedicated members of the Norfolk Police Department express their deepest sympathies to the Hadsell family and thank the many federal, state, and local agencies that have assisted throughout the course of this investigation.
Since Thursday morning, an active police presence has remained at the Smiths Ferry Road residence. Norfolk police were joined by multiple investigative agencies Friday, and, at one point, conducted a line search on the property and surrounding areas.
Anyone with information that might help detectives in this investigation is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP℠ (1-888-562-5887).
Jennifer Hadsell told 10 On Your Side her family has no ties to Southampton County or the home where investigators found AJ’s body. However, she said her husband, Wesley Hadsell, frequently traveled to Franklin for work at the time of their daughter’s disappearance.
Wesley Hadsell, 36, is in police custody for six felony charges and one misdemeanor charge stemming from his time inside a home he admits he broke into on March 6. At the time of his arrest, Hadsell told WAVY’s Joe Fisher he broke into the home to do his own detective work after receiving tips about his daughter’s location.
Longwood University President Taylor Reveley sent the following message to students on Friday:
There is gravely difficult news to share. As you may have begun to hear through news reports, police have identified remains found in Southampton County as those of our missing student, Anjelica “AJ” Hadsell.
Though the weight of this horrible prospect has loomed, today extinguishes our hope of AJ’s safe return and confirms our worst fear. Our thoughts are profoundly with her family. These past weeks, they have endured unimaginable anguish and uncertainty, and now they must confront the terrible grief of this loss.
As we keep AJ’s family foremost in our thoughts, our tight-knit community will also feel great heartache. My thoughts are especially with those at Longwood who knew AJ best – her hometown friends, her hallmates, her fellow members of the club softball and club field hockey teams, her professors. I also know how many of you, even if you did not know AJ personally, have been deeply affected and concerned these past weeks. I know how many of you wore ribbons and reached out to friends and family beyond Longwood to raise awareness of the search. We are also grateful to the Longwood Police, who have helped to the utmost in aiding the Norfolk Police in whatever way they could. All of Longwood shares enormously in this grief. I am personally deeply grateful to the Norfolk officials with whom I and others here have been in close touch throughout, and who have worked tirelessly and with such compassion in an investigation that continues.
In the days and weeks ahead, I encourage all of us to reach out – to faculty, friends, student affairs staff and to our counseling center – to share your feelings and support. Days and grief such as this yield nothing except perspective, and call us all to care that much more for one another. At an appropriate juncture and with the wishes of the family, we will look to hold a service on campus in AJ’s memory.