Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Virginia: Hannah Graham,18, Disappearance Leads to Clue in 2009 Rape Missing Persons Case

According to The Associated Press, a forensic clue uncovered in the investigation of a missing University of Virginia Hannah Graham, 18, has led investigators to believe they have "a significant break" in the unsolved death of another young woman who vanished from UVA five years ago, police said Monday (September 29), and perhaps an unsolved rape from years before.

Leading up to Jesse L. Matthew, Jr., 32,  arrest, police had the arrested man's search of his car and home and removed items, including clothing, that they consider evidence, though they have not been specific. 

On Monday, Virginia State Police said in a statement that the arrest "provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue" in the death of Morgan Harrington, 20, who, like Graham, vanished from another VA campus.

Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, was charged last week with abduction with intent to defile in the case of 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who was last seen on September 13 after she attended a party.

Morgan Harrington, 20, disappeared in  Roanoke after she went to John Paul Jones Arena for a Metallica concert on October 17, 2009. A farmer found her remains three months later in an Albemarle County hayfield, which was among the places searched shortly after Graham disappeared, police have said.

The state police statement provided no specifics about what sort of forensic evidence led to the connection in the cases.
COMMENT: VA State Police said they would have no further comment on the new lead, and neither Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo nor Captain Gary Pleasants returned telephone messages. Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman and Matthew's attorney, James Camblos, also did not respond to messages.

The latest development may also help solve a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax City, since the FBI previously said DNA from Harrington's assailant was collected.

Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler, said he was not surprised by the new evidence. "Since this most recent victim disappeared, I said time and time again that if they could find out who was responsible there was a good chance the same person would be responsible for Morgan Harrington and a number of others," he said.

Harrington's mother, Gil Harrington, told Richmond television station WTVR, "We worked five years to get to this point, so we are relieved." She did not immediately return voicemail messages to The Associated Press.

If convicted, Matthew could face up to life in prison. Intent to defile in the law means intent to sexually molest.

Graham was reported missing a day after she was captured by surveillance cameras as she walked or ran unaccompanied past a pub and a service station, then onto Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. Police say that after leaving an off-campus party, Graham had sent friends several texts, including one saying she was lost, and that she was last seen by witnesses with Matthew at a bar.

Van Zandt said he was struck by the similarities between the Harrington and Graham disappearances. He said both women were separated from their friends in areas they apparently did not know well, and perhaps were offered assistance by a predator. "Their looking for help was turned against them," Van Zandt said.

Matthew, a hospital worker, had a taxi license at the time Harrington disappeared.

Matthew was returned from Texas late Friday (September 26) after he was found two days earlier on a beach near Galveston, TX. He had fled on September 20 after police named him a "person of interest" and said they wanted to question him about Graham's disappearance.

Matthew is being held without bond at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail and is scheduled to appear via a video link for a bond hearing in Charlottesville General District Court on Thursday (October 2).

Our readers will be kept abreast of the results of Matthew's bond hearing.

No comments: