Southampton County, Va. - Norfolk Police confirm that the human remains discovered in the 34000 block of Smiths Ferry Road in Southampton County on Thursday belong to missing teen Anjelica "AJ" Hadsell.
A cause of death has not yet been released.
AJ disappeared from her home in the Tarrallton area of Norfolk on March 2 while she was home for Spring Break from Longwood University.
The FBI, Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management have been assisting Norfolk Police with the investigation into her disappearance.
They were alerted sometime Thursday morning to the home in Southampton County where her remains were found.
Neighbors say the home has been abandoned for about two years and that no one had been seen at the home until about three or four weeks ago. It was then that a neighbor's friend saw a blue or black Dodge Caravan go into the driveway late at night and drive around to the back of the home with no lights on.
Investigators returned to the home on Friday morning. They continued searching the property, including taking a police dog into the woods near the home. Investigators wrapped up their search at the Southampton County property Friday afternoon.
A statement issued by Norfolk Police says, "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. The department’s efforts are now focused on bringing closure to the Hadsell family, as the investigation into A.J.’s death continues."
Shortly after she was reported missing, Norfolk Police released a statement saying they did not believe foul play was involved in her disappearance. Several weeks later, police told NewsChannel 3 they were no longer ruling out foul play, but they would not elaborate.
Since then, her adoptive father, Wesley Hadsell, has been arrested and charged with breaking and entering, obstruction of justice, and weapons charges in relation to an incident that occurred in the days following AJ’s disappearance.
Wesley Hadsell has maintained that he has nothing to do with AJ’s disappearance. At this time, he remains in the Norfolk City Jail.
“That’s how I remember her, as an amazing person. There’s just a hole in my heart for her,” says a friend. “None of it feels real. This just feels like a terrible nightmare.”
Family members and friends say AJ was smart, funny and a great friend.
On Friday, Longwood University released a statement:
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.
AJ's mother also released a statement:
Again I would like to express my deepest appreciation for the Norfolk PD, FBI, Search and Rescue, media and public for their superb dedication to this case and finding my daughter AJ. It has been confirmed by the coroners office that it is in fact AJ. Please respect this time as we need to release emotionally. Your prayers are appreciated from the public!
Friends and family have now started a petition to ask the house of delegates to create SMMPAS (Social Media Missing Persons Alert System). Click here to read more about it.