3-year-old tot girl body found in Crestview woods

A Florida man allegedly dumped the body of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in the woods after he kicked her in the head as punishment for getting out of a car seat, WPMI-TV reports.

According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, the body of Adelynn Merrell was found in a wooded area near a highway in the city of Crestview, which is between Pensacola and Tallahassee.

Deputies were dispatched to a home around 12:30 p.m. Friday for a report of a missing child, the sheriff’s office said. Police found the girl’s body in the woods four hours later.

The girl’s mother, 23-year old Destinee Merrell, admitted to investigators that her boyfriend, 29-year old Cory Hagwell, kicked the child in the head and then locked her in a closet on Thursday as punishment because she had “gotten out of her car seat.”

The couple initially told police they had last seen the girl playing in their back yard.

The child’s body clearly had trauma, but investigators will perform an autopsy to identify the precise reason why she died.

Hagwell thus far has been charged with aggravated child abuse, while Merrell has been charged with aggravated child abuse in addition to three counts of child neglect. Police say Merrell assisted in locking Adelynn in the closet.

More charges are expected in the case, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Authorities also have removed a 5-year-old child who weighed less than 33 pounds from Merrell’s care; a doctor who examined the boy found that he suffered from malnutrition and had “bones in all regions of his body exposed.”

Merrell had allegedly locked Adelynn and another child alone in a room in the house in September, police say. Neighbors found the children after they escaped by breaking a window.

Officials say they are continuing to investigate the case.


[Feature image: Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office]