The man who authorities formerly identified as a “person of interest” in the mysterious disappearance of missing University of Virginia second-year student Hannah Graham has now been charged with the class 2 felony of abduction with the intent to defile. During a press conference on Tuesday, the police chief of Charlottesville, Timothy Longo, also said that an arrest warrant has been issued for the suspect, Jesse Leroy Matthew, Jr.
Graham, 18, was last seen on Sept. 13 in the downtown mall area of Charlottesville. Surveillance video captured a man, later identified as Matthew, with Graham. Police believe him to be the last person to be with Graham before she disappeared.
After being named a person of interest in the University of Virginia student’s disappearance, Matthew, accompanied by his uncle and mother, went willingly to a police station last weekend. According to Longo, he entered through the front door and asked for an attorney. At the time of his visit to the department, Matthew was not wanted by police. He spoke to the lawyer before speeding off and, in the process, eluding the officers assigned to keep him under watch.
A wanted poster for Matthew, 32, is being circulated by the Charlottesville Police Department. He is also wanted by police for reckless driving due to the way he sped from the police station. Matthew is described as African-American. He stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 270 pounds. He has contacts in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., New York and Virginia and may be driving his sister’s car, a light blue 1997 Nissan Sentra.
As part of the case, detectives have performed searches of Matthew’s car and residence. Police removed bags of clothing and have sent some possible evidence to the Richfield, Va. Department of Forensic Science. The director of the lab was not able to estimate how long it will take to process the evidence but did say that it would be expedited.
Graham attended a party and then saw some friends at a nearby apartment building just before midnight on Sept. 12. She was captured on a surveillance camera about 15 minutes before 1:00 a.m. in front of a pub, where she was denied entrance by a doorman. Another video shows the University of Virginia student running by a gas station at 12:55 a.m., but there does not appear to be anybody chasing her. Witnesses reported seeing her at approximately 1:00 a.m. at a restaurant located about four blocks away from the gas station. She is seen on security footage at approximately 1:06 a.m. walking in the mall and later again at 1:08 a.m.
Her friends received a text from Graham at 20 minutes past 1:00 a.m. that said she was trying to locate a party but had gotten lost. Based on the video footage and witness accounts, police believe that Graham may have been drinking – perhaps so much that she was a target for predators and not able to adequately defend herself. She was seen in a bar having drinks with a man that police believe was Matthew between 1:30 a.m. and 2:00 a.m.
Longo did not reveal any additional information about the case, saying that “we need to be very sensitive about the information that we share.” The chief made it clear that the search for Graham is continuing. In addition, a reward of $50,000 has been offered in exchange for information leading to University of Virginia student Graham’s safe return.
By Jennifer Pfalz