Man pleads guilty to concealing woman’s body in trash can

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York-Poquoson Courthouse
(file photo)

A 48-year-old man who police say concealed the body of a deceased woman in a trash can at the Dixie Fuel Company in Newport News entered a plea agreement in the York County Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon.

Michael Kerlin, who is listed as president of the Dixie Fuel Company on the company’s website, pleaded guilty to concealment of a dead body in connection to the overdose death of Michelle Hull earlier this year.

The York County prosecution agreed to drop two charges of possession of schedule I or II controlled substances in the plea agreement. The charges were nolle prossed, meaning the prosecution will not pursue the charges unless new evidence comes to light. The drug charges stem from a November 2015 incident, according to district court case records.

Kerlin was arrested May 8 after the body of Michelle Hull was found in a trash can at Kerlin’s company, surrounded by propane tanks, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jacob Lambert said at Kerlin’s trial Tuesday.

Hull’s mother, Donna, filed a missing person report with the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office on May 7 after not hearing from her daughter since May 5, Lambert said. Hull communicated with her mother often, and it was unusual for her to be out of touch for more than a day, he added.

One of Kerlin’s coworkers told police Kerlin said Hull overdosed at his house, and he needed to “get rid of the body,” Lambert said.

Investigators found Hull’s identification and cell phone at Kerlin’s house in York County, as well as a trash can lid and tire tracks from a two-wheeled hand truck.

Friends of Hull witnessed Kerlin leaving the Dixie Fuel Company, located at 512 Muller Lane, during the night on May 7.

He was then pulled over by York County deputies, who questioned him about Hull’s disappearance. Hull refused to provide any information, Lambert said.

On May 8, Kerlin’s father found the body in a trash can, hidden among propane tanks on the company’s property. The can was with a hand truck, which matched the tire tracks found at Kerlin’s house, Lambert said.

The lid found at Kerlin’s house also matched the trash can Hull’s body was found in.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Rizk accepted Kerlin’s guilty plea for concealment of a dead body, and dropped the possession of schedule I or II controlled substances charges.

Concealment of a dead body is a class 6 felony and carries a sentence of one to five years in prison, or up to 12 months in jail with a fine of $2,500.

In court, Kerlin’s lawyer Tim Clancy, of Hampton, said Kerlin is currently residing in a “therapeutic community” in a different locality.

Clancy declined to comment on the case.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. in the York County Circuit Court.

Fearing can be reached by phone 207-975-5459.