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A Virginia Man Killed His Adopted Daughter. Then, He Led Search Party Efforts While Framing Her Friend for the Crime.

Wesley Hadsell already had a lengthy criminal record at the time of Anjelica Hadsell's disappearance in Virginia.
Cover Image Source: (L) Image Source: Western Tidewater Regional Jail ; (R) Pexels | Luidmila Chernetska
Cover Image Source: (L) Image Source: Western Tidewater Regional Jail ; (R) Pexels | Luidmila Chernetska

A 43-year-old Virginia man was found guilty of the murder of his 18-year-old stepdaughter. Teenager Anjelica "AJ" Hadsell had disappeared from her parents' Tarrallton area home in Norfolk in March 2015, the Norfolk Police Department said, Oxygen reported.

Anjelica Hadsell was visiting her family during spring break from Longwood University at the time of her disappearance.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by kat wilcox
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Kat Wilcox

“She was an athlete. She was very outgoing,” Norfolk Police Detective David Benjamin said, Oxygen reported. “No issues with drugs or alcohol; really was kind of flying straight.”

The student was known as a smart and responsible young woman who often helped to take care of her two younger half-sisters. Her biological father was never in the picture, so her other stepfather Zach Hoffer raised her.

Anjelica Hadsell's mom Jennifer Wright remarried Wesley Hadsell after she separated from Hoffer when Anjelica Hadsell was 8-years-old. Wesley Hadsell eventually stepped in and formally adopted the little girl.

“I adored Anjelica,” Wesley Hadsell told Dateline correspondent Andrea Canning in an interview. “She was my daughter, you know? She was my family. So it felt right to just make it official.”

In March 2015, when Anjelica Hadsell returned for spring break, she was going through a rough phase after breaking up with her boyfriend.

Wesley Hadsell was also kicked out of the home for drug abuse and was staying at a nearby hotel for the time being. On March 2, 2015, Anjelica Hadsell disappeared and left a text for her family that mentioned that she was going to stay "out with friends" and that she "needed time."

Anjelica Hadsell's family did not suspect anything initially, but when her mother Jennifer Wright returned home, she discovered an unusual note. 

Image Source: Western Tidewater Regional Jail
Wesley Hadsell | Image Source: Western Tidewater Regional Jail

“Dear madre, With everything that’s going on, it’s a lot to deal with,” the note read, Dateline reported.

When she failed to return any of her family's text messages, loved ones reported her missing to Norfolk Police.

"The door was unlocked and there was half-folded laundry in the living room. AJ’s wallet with money in it was sitting on the couch. All very odd,” Benjamin said.

Anjelica Hadsell's friends also insisted to the investigating authorities that she wouldn't have run away without informing anyone.

“Nobody thought she had just run away,” the teen's friend Andre Barr recalled, Dateline reported.  “AJ wouldn’t have done that without telling at least one of us.”

Wesley Hadsell had told the police authorities that he met her at a gas station and he gave the teen $200 before she left to head back home that day. The detectives initially suspected that it was a case of abduction and they started to interrogate those who were close to her.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Lukas
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Lukas

Anjelica Hadsell's ex-boyfriend was investigated but he was ruled out as a suspect since he had a strong alibi.

Then, Corey French, another boy who used to date Anjelica Hadsell in junior school, discovered a startling clue related to her disappearance: a portion of Anjelica Hadsell's credit card lying at the side of the road.


Previously, Wesley Hadsell had told the investigators that French was obsessed with Anjelica Hadsell so the discovery of her credit card by him was an unusual coincidence. On the other hand, French told the authorities that he was only her close friend and they hadn't met in the past few months before she went missing.

At one point, Anjelica Hadsell's friend Barr called the Norfolk Police and informed them that he had seen Anjelica Hadsell's softball jacket at French's home. The jacket was something that she was wearing when she disappeared.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro studio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by cottonbro studio

“My answers were always the same, 'I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re talking about,'” French recalled of the intense interrogation that he had to sit through after Anjelica Hadsell's jacket was found stuffed at the back of his couch, Dateline reported.

“It kept going. It just was a tennis match the whole time and I kept losing.” Due to the lack of evidence on French, he was released by the investigators.

Wesley Hadsell then camped outside French's home to protest with a blow-horn and even delivered him a pizza with the message "I know what you did" written inside the box. Wesley Hadsell allegedly led community search efforts to help find his daughter. 

“I felt Corey French was definitely involved so I thought that something drastic needed to happen to get some answers,” Wesley Hadsell said at the time, Dateline reported.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro studio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by cottonbro studio

The case took an abrupt turn when Wesley Hadsell claimed to the investigators that he and Barr had discovered some of Anjelica Hadsell's clothes thrown along the side of a road after they followed an anonymous tip.

The investigator suspected Barr when he was involved in the discovery of two major pieces of evidence related to Anjelica Hadsell's disappearance.


Upon questioning, Barr allegedly admitted that he had only found the softball jacket of Anjelica Hadsell in French's home after Wesley Hadsell told him to look for it in that particular spot. Wesley Hadsell allegedly claimed that he had broken into French's house to look for Anjelica Hadsell when he found the jacket.

He was allegedly worried that he might get arrested for the break-in, so he didn't inform the police directly about his discovery. By that point, Wesley Hadsell already had an extensive criminal record from the past which involved break-ins, robbing a bank, and burglary of several businesses. 

Investigating authorities discovered a Garmin GPS device in Wesley Hadsell's van that helped them trace his whereabouts around the time of Anjelica Hadsell's disappearance and it led them to an abandoned property an hour west of Norfolk. Anjelica Hadsell's body was recovered from a small drainage ditch on the property and the state of her body suggested a possible sexual assault.

A medical examination determined that she died from heroin poisoning even though she had no history of drug abuse.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Kindel Media
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Kindel Media

Authorities allegedly recovered the heroin from the ceiling of Wesley Hadsell's hotel room and they believed that Anjelica Hadsell was forced to write the note by her step-father before he allegedly abducted and killed her. Then he tried to allegedly cover his tracks by planting evidence at French's home to frame him.

In 2022, Wesley Hadsell was found guilty of first-degree murder of his stepdaughter and the concealment of a body. Wesley Hadsell had allegedly forcefully administered a lethal dose of heroin to Anjelica Hadsell, Wavy 10 reported.

However, Wesley Hadsell continued to maintain his innocence in court. The jurors' deliberation lasted 45 minutes before they came back with the verdict.


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