Oct 20, 2014 4:22 PM

Suspect in Va. abduction charged in DC area rape

The Associated Press

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) The suspect in the disappearance of a University of Virginia student was charged Monday with abducting and raping a woman in suburban Washington, D.C., in 2005.

The indictment against Jesse L. Matthew Jr. was handed up by a Circuit Court grand jury in Fairfax County and includes a charge of attempted capital murder.

Matthew, 32, is being held in Charlottesville, Virginia, on a charge related to the Sept. 13 disappearance of Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old from northern Virginia.

At a news conference Monday, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh declined to discuss any details of the case, but did say the victim is cooperating. Police had previously said that on Sept. 24, 2005, a 26-year-old woman was walking home from the grocery store about 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, when her assailant grabbed her from behind, dragged her into a wooded area behind some townhomes, and sexually assaulted her.

The man fled the area when he was startled by a passerby, police said.

Morrogh said he will seek a bench warrant later this week requesting that Matthew be brought to Fairfax for an initial appearance, and he expected that to be granted. But no court date has been set. Morrogh said he was not sure whether Matthew would be tried first in Charlottesville or in Fairfax.

"I'm willing to go first, last or whenever," Morrogh said.

Law enforcement officials who have been searching for Graham found human remains over the weekend and they were taken to the Virginia Medical Examiner's office in Richmond. A spokesman in the office could not say Monday when the results of the forensic examination would be completed.

One of the officials who made the discovery said the remains were found just as he and his team were about to move on to another site.

"We were on our way back to our vehicle and I just decided to keep going," said Sgt. Dale Terry of the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department. "So we swept a different area and luckily we just came upon what we came upon. ... Divine intervention is the only thing I can think of."

Matthew's attorney has repeatedly refused to discuss his client, and a message on his law office telephone on Monday said he was not taking questions in the case.

Monday, state and local law enforcement officials continued to search an area about 12 miles southwest of the Charlottesville campus of U.Va. where the remains were found on Saturday after an extensive search in the city of 40,000 and in Albemarle County.

Police let Graham's parents know about the discovery before they publicly released the information. They are looking for clues and evidence in a heavily wooded area that is dotted with farms.

Matthew has been charged with abduction with intent to defile Graham. He is being held in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

The remains were discovered roughly 6 miles from where the body of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington was found after she vanished in 2009. Police have said forensic evidence connects Matthew to Harrington's killing, which in turn is linked by DNA to the 2005 sexual assault in northern Virginia. He has not been charged in the Harrington killing.

As for the link between the Graham case and the Fairfax case, Morrogh would only say that "indirectly, that case was of value to the department in conducting its investigation" but declined further comment.

Fairfax City Police Chief Carl Pardiny credited his investigators with their work on the case, going back to 2005.

"We never gave up, not over nine years," Pardiny said.

Graham hasn't been seen since after a night out with friends. She had met friends at a restaurant for dinner before stopping by two off-campus parties. She left the second party alone and eventually texted a friend saying she was lost, authorities said.

In surveillance video, she can be seen walking unsteadily and even running at times, past a pub and a service station and then onto a seven-block strip of bars, restaurants and shops. On Sunday, the area was buzzing with people having brunch at outdoor cafes on a brisk, sunny day. Graham's disappearance and the discovery of human remains was a frequent topic of conversation.

"Everybody was rattled. Everybody knew it was coming, but you still hope for the best. As much as you can prepare for it, you can never prepare for it," said Claire Meyers, a University of Virginia nursing student who has friends who knew Graham and Matthew.

Matthew was an operating room technician at the university's hospital, where Meyers works as a patient care assistant.

Albemarle County resident Bill Gnas, a retiree who lives a few miles from where the remains were found, said he suspected the worst.

"Truly, I was saddened by it. After three or four days you had to anticipate it was going to be another Harrington event where they were going to find the body, and the only thing you could hope for at that point was that there be some closure for the parents that it was in fact discovered," he said.


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