Friends react to death of missing Newport News woman

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — York County deputies arrested a man in connection with a body that was found in a trash can near a Newport News business over the weekend.

Michael Kerlin (Photo Courtesy of the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
Michael Kerlin (Photo Courtesy of the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

Michael Kerlin has been charged with unlawful concealment of a dead body.

Deputies say someone found the body of a female inside a trash can. The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office has positively identified the victim as 46-year-old Michelle Hull. Her cause of death remains undetermined at this time.

Lt. Dennis Ivey from the Sheriff’s Office told 10 On Your Side family members filed a missing persons case for Hull over the weekend. Her family told authorities that they last saw her on May 5.

Deputies had planned to search the area around 500 Muller Lane, near the Dixie Fuels company building, on Sunday

Photo provided by victim's family.
Michelle Hull (Photo provided by Hull’s family

Before York County Deputies could get there, someone stumbled across a trash can with the body of a woman inside.

Investigators taped off the one-story building and collected evidence at the scene Sunday. A spokesperson said officers connected it to the York County missing person investigation within hours.

York County deputies initially detained Michael Kerlin, owner and president of Dixie Fuels, in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 8 on a public intoxication charge.

Capt. Troy Lyons with the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office says Kerlin was a person of interest in the missing persons case of Hull as of Saturday, May 7.

Although too emotional to talk on camera, Hull’s father, Joe, told 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings everyone called Michelle “Shelly.” He said she was a nice person who had no children and was her mother’s only child. She was a full-time student who in the past worked as a part-time bartender.

Michelle’s friends have spent the last few days posting on a social media about their worst fears. Investigators spent time in Newport News Monday gathering more evidence. A woman who lives across the street from Kerlin told 10 On Your Side he was quiet.

Michelle Hull (left), Wendy Hinkle (right) (Photo courtesy of Wendy Dee / Facebook)
Michelle Hull (left), Wendy Hinkle (right) (Photo courtesy of Wendy Dee / Facebook)

“I don’t really see anyone go in-and-out of that area at all, anyone across the street. They always keep to themselves,” Rachel Campbell said.

However she says there was activity at the otherwise calm house on Sunday. According to Campbell, there were police cars blocking Kerlin’s driveway. Campbell says what her neighbor is accused of is frightening. “It kind of scares me,” she said.

In court Monday morning Kerlin faced a judge on two charges, concealing a death and drugs. 10 On Your Side found out that the drug charge comes from 2015, when Kerlin is accused of having cocaine and heroin in his house. Investigators also say Kerlin was the center of a death investigation at the time.

Deputies say last year paramedics picked up an unresponsive woman named Wendy Hinkle from Kerlin’s home. She later died and toxicology reports showed she had illegal drugs in her system, but because deputies had no evidence that Kerlin killed her, they could not prove that he provided the drugs or administered them.

Kerlin was never charged with a crime.

A friend of both Hull and Hinkle say the women were friends, also that Kerlin was dating Hinkle when she died last year. So far police have not said what connection either of the women have to each other or Kerlin.

Kerlin is due in court for a preliminary hearing on July 5.

On Tuesday a friend of Hull’s, Teresa Brock, spoke to 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings.

“I’m angry, I’m really angry” Brock said speaking of her friend’s death.

Speaking about Hull she said, “She is not garbage. She’s got one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever known in my life, and I’m so blessed to be part of her life. I’m going to miss that smile every day. That’s all anybody is bringing up is that smile because it was so beautiful.”

Brock said she found out Friday that her friend of 20 years was missing, “We started heading out looking for her, going around showing her picture to places we thought she would have been. We got up Saturday morning and she still hadn’t been found.”

When police announced “Shelly” was found in the trash can, Brock didn’t want to believe it, “I really thought we were going to find her,” she said.

Finding out how Shelly was found makes grief more difficult.

“If she’d have died on a motorcycle or something like that, which she loved doing, we can process that. We’ve all been through that, but this is senseless,” Brock said.

Click here to help with Michelle Hull’s funeral costs.

Matt Gregory/WAVY
Matt Gregory/WAVY

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