An autopsy has revealed that a three year old Crestview girl whose body was found dumped in woods died from a skull fracture to the back of the head caused by blunt force trauma.
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has now added a charge of first degree murder to prior charges involving 29- year old Cory Hagwell – and a charge of accessory after the fact to murder for the child’s mother, 23-year old Destinee Merrell.
The OCSO was called to 4700 Bobolink Way November 10th after three year old Adelynn Merrell was reported missing by the couple. They said they’d last seen her playing in the back yard and believed she’d been kidnapped. An intense search was conducted but deputies were struck by how calm and unemotional Merrell appeared. As they continued to talk to her, she ultimately told them Hagwell, her live-in boyfriend, had kicked the little girl in the head and locked her in a closet, then took the child’s body to the woods after she was found dead. In an interview at the Okaloosa County jail, Merrell said the abuse happened around 6:30 a.m., but she never checked on Adelynn in the closet until around 11:30 a.m. They called the OCSO with the concocted missing child/abduction story about an hour later.
OCSO Investigators say during the course of their ongoing investigation over the past two days, Merrell and Hagwell have given conflicting stories as to exactly what happened. A child in the home however said he saw Hagwell kick Adelynn while she was playing and he heard Merrell say “Stop Cory”. He says he also saw the little girl in a bedroom closet on the floor and not talking – and never saw or heard her again.
During the jail interview Merrell also told investigators Hagwell lost his job about one month ago, and began exhibiting escalating violence towards Adelynn. Merrell described hearing thuds and the sounds of Adelynn crying fifteen to sixteen times over that period. She said Hagwell would also withhold food from Adelynn and put her in the closet for extended periods of time.
Both Merrell and Hagwell are being held without bond at the Okaloosa County Jail.
Navarre Newspaper reminds our readers that Cory Hagwell and Desiree Merrell are presumed to innocent until found guilty in a court of law.