Couple Held After 3-Year-Old Found Dead in Woods


OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. – A young mother and her boyfriend were being held in a Florida jail after the woman’s 3-year-old daughter was found dead in a wooded area Friday afternoon.

Police said Destinee J. Merrell, 23, told them that her boyfriend, Cory M. Hagwell, 29, had kicked the girl in the head because she had climbed out of her car seat, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.

Moreover, the child, identified as Adelynn Merrell, was then locked in a closet, where she died, police told the newspaper. Furthermore, following the girl’s death, her body was found later in the woods.

Authorities said the girl had suffered head trauma, but the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said an autopsy would determine the exact cause of death.

To cover the homicide, the couple initially reported the child missing. However, police said the mother later admitted to the chain of events that led to the death and deception, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, a 5-year-old boy in the woman’s care was found to be suffering from malnutrition, with “bones in all regions of his body exposed,” according to the news agency.

Merrell was booked on three counts of child neglect and one count of aggravated child battery. Hagwell was booked on one count of aggravated child abuse.

However, since the story was published, the pair has been formerly charged with murder according to a tweet from the sheriff’s department.

(Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office)

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