The little girl died from apparent head trauma after being kicked in the head by the boyfriend as punishment for getting out of her car seat. She was then locked in a bedroom closet. Her body was found dumped in the woods off Palmetto Avenue near Crestview.

NOTE
It's been announced that a candlelight ceremony for Adelynn Merrell, the 3-year-old girl tragically killed, will be held at 5:15 p.m. today at the corner of Palmetto Avenue and Bobolink Way.

CRESTVIEW — A little girl's lifeless body found dumped in the woods Friday afternoon has led to charges being filed against the mother and her live-in boyfriend.

Adelynn Merrell, just 3 years old, was killed while being punished by the boyfriend, according to an admission from the mother given to Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office investigators.

Currently being held in the Okaloosa County Jail is the mother, 23-year-old Destinee J. Merrell, on 3 counts of child neglect without great bodily harm and one count of aggravated child battery. Also being held is her boyfriend, 29-year-old Cory M. Hagwell, on one count of aggravated child abuse.

More charges are expected in the case, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Adelynn's body was found dumped in the woods east of Crestview off Palmetto Avenue around 4:30 p.m. Friday. The Sheriff's Office noted in the release that she had suffered apparent head trauma, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause and manner of death.

OCSO deputies were called to 4700 Bobolink Way earlier in the day around 12:30 p.m. after the little girl was reported missing by the couple. Merrell and Hagwell said they’d last seen her playing in the backyard.

An intense search was conducted, but eventually Merrell told OCSO investigators that Hagwell had kicked Adelynn in the head and locked her in a closet in the master bedroom as punishment Thursday night because she had “gotten out of her car seat."

Part of the charges against Merrell concern her taking part in locking her daughter in the closet.

OCSO also had another child in Merrell’s care taken to the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center on Friday for a wellness exam where a doctor found the 5-year-old boy suffers from malnutrition, weighing less than 33 pounds, with “bones in all regions of his body exposed.”

In addition, investigators determined Merrell had left Adelynn and another child alone and locked in a room in the Bobolink Way home on Sept. 1. The youngsters broke out a window and were found by neighbors.

None of the children involved in the case were born through the relationship between Merrell and Hagwell.

In the release, the Sheriff's Office noted that the investigation is ongoing in the case.

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