The Mysterious Death of AJ Hadsell: One Year Later

WAVY News 10

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Loved ones are still waiting for closure one year after Anjelica “AJ” Hadsell disappeared.

The girl who family and friends say had bright future vanished on March 2, 2015. She was last seen by a neighbor near her home on Millard Street in the Tarralton neighborhood.

The star athlete, college freshman and loving daughter, sister and friend was later found dead on an abandoned property 50 miles from her home. To this day, no one in the public knows how she got there.

“She’s always on my mind,” said Jennifer Hadsell, who says she thinks about the case everyday. “You don’t stop thinking about it … Some days you play over things that ‘were there signs? What would you do differently?'”

Mrs. Hadsell says she believes text messages sent from her daughter’s phone in the two days following her disappearance were being answered by someone else. Then, communication cut off and was never reconnected.

“It’s very hard,” she said. “Just the fact that she’s not here … Sometimes I get excited about things and she’s not here to share them.”

Friends tried their best to bring Hadsell home alive by launching a Facebook page, posting thousands of flyers and even getting her picture posted to billboards.

In the midst of the search, police arrested Wesley Hadsell, her adoptive father, on unrelated charges. He became a person of interest in the case — but never a suspect.

Full Coverage: AJ Hadsell Investigation

Mr. Hadsell admitted to 10 On Your Side from jail that he broke into a home to investigate his daughter’s mysterious absence and found the jacket she was last seen wearing.

Mr. Hadsell has maintained his innocence when asked by 10 On Your Side’s Joe Fisher  if he was involved in his adopted daughter’s case.

April 9, 2015, the 38th day of the search, police say “their investigation” led them to an abandoned home on Smiths Ferry Road in Franklin. They found human remains that were positively identified as Hadsell the next day.

In June, the medical examiner said Hadsell died from acute heroin poisoning, but her manner of death was ruled undetermined.

Eric Korslund, who represented Mr. Hadsell on various state charges before they were dropped, says the undetermined death could prove to be difficult for investigators.

“I think the biggest unknown is ‘was she murdered?'” said Korslund. “If [police] tried to prove or persuade anybody that Wesley Hadsell was responsible for her death they are going to have to show that he put heroin in her body without her permission [and] without her consent. That would be the only way they could prove homicide against Wesley Hadsell in my opinion.”

Korslund believes the best evidence against Hadsell are GPS coordinates from his work truck that put him just feet from the home where AJ’s body was found.

“It raises suspicioun, absolutely,” said Korslund. “There is that connection there; but again, nobody knows what happened inside that house.”

Norfolk police says there’s been progress behind-the-scenes, but they did not release any new details for this story in fear of compromising the case.

“We can’t show all of our cards to the public,” said spokesman Officer Daniel Hudson. “The investigators themselves have been surrounded by this evidence, been wanting to pursue this, wanting to put the person responsible behind bars for AJ Hadsell’s family.”

In the weeks following her daughter’s death, Mrs. Hadsell got to work on organizing ‘The Anjelica Hadsell Memorial Scholarship Fund.’

The non-profit has organized various events throughout the year, including golf and bowling tournaments, to raise money for the $2,000 scholarship that will be awarded to a Norview High School senior student-athlete in May.

“The scholarship has really helped heal all of us, because it brings all of us together and focuses our attention on something good instead of all the bad stuff that’s happened,” said Chelsey Zirkle, AJ’s cousin.

The birth of the non-profit has also helped AJ’s mom start to fill a void felt almost everyday.

“When you do family gatherings, birthdays, Christmas … there’s a piece missing,” said Mrs. Hadsell.

To get involved or donate to the ‘Anjelica Hadsell Memorial Scholarship Fund’ click here. Interested donors can also give money to the fund at any location of Monarch Bank, donate prize or auction items or become a sponsor for the ‘Fly High Frenzy,’ a softball tournament at the Little Creek National ball field in Tarralton April 2-3.

Mrs. Hadsell is hoping persistence from the authorities will eventually pay off in the form of an arrest.

“No matter how fast the charges are brought and the charges are done nothing is going to bring her back,” said Mrs. Hadsell. “Get it right. So the person who did it is held accountable for what they did.”

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