A body has been found that investigators believe might belong to Hannah Graham, the 18-year-old University of Virginia student that went missing on September 13. The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Oct. 18 that Graham’s parents have been notified of the preliminary findings and a search for Graham scheduled for Sunday was canceled, indicating that the body found was most likely that of the missing student.
According to authorities, the remains were found in southern Albemarle County, close to the area where the remains of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harringon were found in 2009, three months after she went missing. Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said at a press conference that a search team from Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office (south of Richmond) found the remains on an abandoned property.
“Today’s discovery is a significant development and we have a great deal of work ahead of us,” Albemarle County Police Chief Steve Sellers said. “We cannot and we will not jump to any conclusions regarding today’s discovery, so I ask for the public’s patience as we move forward and pursue what is now a new ongoing death investigation.”
Sellers asked for the public’s help as well. He asked that anyone seeing any type of suspicious activity in the area where the remains were found or who might have seen someone who fits Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr.’s description in the area after Hannah Graham’s disappearance contact authorities.
Jesse Matthew was arrested in Galveston, Texas, less than two weeks after Hannah Graham went missing. He was charged with abduction with intent to defile, a felony that requires those accused to submit to DNA testing. Matthew had been the last person seen with Graham the night she disappeared. Some witnesses claimed she had left a bar with Matthew and got in his car, but Matthew later denied this.
Shortly after Matthew’s arrest and the subsequent DNA testing, Virginia State Police announced a “forensic link” to the Harrington killing. And like dominoes, forensic pieces began to fall linking Matthew to other criminal acts. The Harrington case was linked by DNA evidence in 2012 to a Fairfax (Virginia) woman’s rape. That particular woman had survived her 2005 attack only after a passer-by startled the man assaulting her, according to the FBI.
Christopher Newport University also released a statement following Jesse Matthew’s arrest where they revealed that he had been named in a police file involving a Sept. 7, 2003 sexual assault on their campus in Newport News, Virginia. Matthew had been a student at Christopher Newport for seven months — from January 2003 through Oct. 15, 2003.
Prior to his time at Christopher Newport University, Matthew had been enrolled at Liberty University for three years. While at the Christian college, he was accused of the rape of a student on campus. That case never saw trial due to the alleged victim not pressing for prosecution.
The Washington Post reported Oct. 20 that Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh and Fairfax City Police Chief Carl Pardiny announced at a press conference that Jesse Matthew had been indicted on indicted on a charge of attempted capital murder and two other counts in connection to the aforementioned 2005 rape.