Charlottesville police say they have found forensic evidence linking Jesse Matthew, 32, recently been charged with the abduction of Hannah Graham, 18, to Morgan Harrington. Harrington, 20, was a student at Virginia Tech when she disappeared at a Metallica concert in the Charlottesville area on Oct. 17, 2009. Three months later, her remains were found on a farm in Virginia. Her killer was never found.
Meanwhile, Graham, who disappeared in the same area in the early morning hours of Sept. 13, has not been found. She was last seen on surveillance footage with Matthew and she appeared to be intoxicated. He is considered the primary suspect in her disappearance and last week, Charlottesville police charged him with abduction with intent to defile (rape).
Matthew was arrested in Texas, where he reportedly fled after police searched his home for evidence in the disappearance of Graham. Upon his arrest, he was charged with being a wanted fugitive and for allegedly giving false information to a police officer. He appeared in a Texas court for arraignment the next day, dressed in a green jumpsuit. He was polite, but appeared to be somewhat confused as the judge read him his rights. He apologetically asked the judge to repeat himself when instructed to sign the paperwork that gave him a choice as to whether he intended to fight extradition to Virginia, which, after the judge explained it to him, he chose not to fight. He was extradited to Virginia on Friday and booked in Charlottesville-Albermarle Regional jail, where he remains on abduction with intent to defile charges. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday, where he will plead guilty or not guilty.
Charlottesville police did not specify what forensic evidence they had linking Matthew to Harrington – only that it indicates that the two had some sort of contact the night she disappeared. According to an anonymous source, who works in law enforcement and is reportedly familiar with the investigation, DNA evidence links Matthew to Harrington, but he did not give further detail. About two years ago, police also linked DNA found on Harrington to that of a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax, Virginia. The 2005 victim was able to get away.
Aside from one misdemeanor trespassing conviction in 2010, Matthew had no criminal history in Charlottesville prior to the disappearance of Graham. He does, however, appear to have a history of inappropriate and sexually aggressive behavior that dates back at least twelve years.
In 2002, Matthew was accused of sexually assaulting a woman when he was a student at Liberty University, a college in Lynchburg, Virginia. Police questioned both the woman and Matthew, but ultimately, prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges. Matthew was, however, expelled from Liberty University over the incident and lost his football scholarship due to the fact that engaging in sexual activities with a female, consensual or not, was against the rules at the Christian university.
Unnamed sources who reportedly know Matthew quite well have said that, at the time of Harrington’s disappearance, Matthew worked as a cab driver and would reportedly offer young women free rides home. The source claims that Matthew once tried to follow a customer into her home.
The same source also said that when the police released a sketch of Harrington’s killer, he noted that it looked remarkably like Matthew and pointed it out to him. After that, according to the source, Matthew, who had short hair and a beard at the time, shaved his beard and grew his hair out, and then got dreadlocks.
Police have not said whether or not Matthew is considered a suspect in Harrington’s disappearance and subsequent death, nor have they said he is linked to her death; only that forensic evidence proves that the two had contact with each other at some point the night she disappeared or after. Police have also said they consider this link to be a big break in the case of the disappearance and murder of Harrington. James Camblos, the attorney for Matthew, has yet to comment.
By Lindsey Dow