It has been one week since Hannah Graham, a sophomore at University of Virginia, disappeared. She is 18 years old, 5’11, slender, with light-brown hair, blue eyes and freckles. Over 1000 volunteers have been searching for her. She was last seen in Charlottesville, on security cameras with a man outside a bar and reportedly appeared “very intoxicated.” Police originally believed he might know her and was trying to help her, but have now named him as a “person of interest.”
That man is Jesse ‘LJ’ Matthew. He is 32 years old, black, with dreadlocks and slightly husky. Surveillance videos reportedly show Graham and Matthews together outside a pub at the Downtown Mall, which is a seven-block strip of restaurants, shops and bars. The Charlottesville Police Department has said they now have “reason to believe” Graham was inside a bar with “an individual” at the Downtown Mall, which references a video where a man believed to be Matthew is seen at Sal’s Restaurant, buying drinks for Graham. Police have said it is possible she got into his car, though Matthew reportedly denies this.
Matthew, who is a nursing student at University of Virginia Hospital, was recognized by both close friends and family in the surveillance video, but they are skeptical he could have been involved in Graham’s disappearance. He reportedly told his mother that he bought her drinks that night, but after that, they two went their separate ways. Matthew has also reportedly met with police earlier today and admitted to buying drinks for Graham, but denied that she got into his car afterwards. Police, however, have said they have “every reason” to believe she did get into his car after leaving the bar, but did not elaborate as to why they think so.
His grandmother, Christine Carr, 82, said that police searched his car and residence yesterday and ended up taking away his car and three bags from his apartment. She also stressed that her grandson is a “good boy,” says he has never been in trouble before and has held a job ever since he was old enough to work. Matthew reportedly lives in a two-bedroom apartment just outside of Charlottesville, where he has lived all his life. His grandmother said he had a live-in girlfriend there at one point.
Although both are students at University of Virginia, Matthew and Graham reportedly did not know each other before the early hours of Saturday, Sept. 13, when they were seen together on surveillance footage which identified him as a “person of interest”. Those who knew her prior to last Saturday last saw her at a party around 11:50pm on Friday, Sept. 12. In her last known text message, Graham or someone pretending to be Graham wrote that she was lost and could not find the address to the party she was invited to, which was sent at 1:20am on Saturday, Sept. 13. That was 20 minutes after she was seen with Matthew on surveillance footage.
Although police have said they have “every reason” to believe Graham got into his car the night she disappeared, based on what is known about Matthew, he does not appear to completely fit the profile of an abductor. According to Brad Garrett, founder of Brad Garrett Investigations International agency, former behavior profiler for the FBI, who has a PhD in criminology, abductors tend to be white males (Matthew is black), between the age of 30-40 (which Matthew is), a history of “problems” with relationships, in general but especially women (unknown, but he apparently had a live-in girlfriend at one point, so he is apparently able to hold down a serious romantic relationship for at least some amount of time) and tend to be socially isolated (by contrast, Matthew has close friends). That, however, does not eliminate the possibility that Matthew is responsible for Graham’s disappearance.
Graham is the fourth University of Virginia student to go missing within the last five years, all of whom are female. The three others are Samantha Ann Clarke (19), DaShad Laquinn Smith (19) and Morgan Harrington (20). Harrington was found dead a few months later and while foul play is suspected, no arrests have been made. Clarke and Smith remain missing. Police do not believe the cases are connected and as of right now, Matthew is not considered a suspect in the missing University of Virginia student’s disappearance, but he remains a “person of interest”.
By Lindsey Dow