Sep 25, 2014 3:14 PM

UVa suspect doesn't challenge extradition in Texas

The Associated Press

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) A man charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia student didn't challenge his extradition Thursday from Texas, where he was arrested after apparently spending several nights camping on a beach.

Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. allegedly sped away after being questioned by police in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday, and made it to the beach town of Gilchrist, Texas 1,260 miles from home and about a seven-hour drive from the border before his arrest.

Authorities had been concerned he would try to cross into Mexico, according to a person familiar with the search for Hannah Graham, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person isn't authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

"We seem to be the end of the road," said Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset. "For us, it's not strange that someone like that would be arrested here."

Matthew, 32, declined to challenge his return to Virginia in a very brief court hearing Thursday, where he did not look at the cameras or speak other than to acknowledge his signature.

The 6-foot-2, 270-pound former college football player was captured less than a day after he was charged with "abduction with intent to defile" Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore who went missing Sept. 13 in Charlottesville.

A deputy responding to a suspicious person report found he had pitched a tent on the beach near his car. Matthew refused to identify himself, but his car's plates gave him away.

Police think the tent had been in the area a day or two, Trochesset said.

"This case is nowhere near over," Charlottesville Virginia Police Chief Timothy Longo said. "We have a person in custody, but there's a long road ahead of us and that long road includes finding Hannah Graham."

Owners of rural and wooded areas around Charlottesville were urged to examine their properties for any signs of Graham, and authorities in Texas have now joined the search as well, the sheriff there said.

Police said they had probable cause to arrest Matthew after twice searching his apartment and gathering other evidence, but they have released no details yet.

"Defile" is an antiquated word whose modern legal meaning would be "to sexually molest." Police don't need "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" to file the charge, according to Steve Benjamin of Richmond, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "But it requires more than a hunch, more than a reasonable suspicion," he said.

Police have been wise not to describe their evidence as they hunted for both Matthew and Graham, said University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett, an expert in criminal procedure.

"If police interrogate a suspect, they want to know if that person has inside information about the crime," Garrett said. "That's how they test a confession."

But now that police have Matthew in custody, they face a higher standard, experts say.

"It's a crime that's much easier to charge than it is to prove," Benjamin said. "The fact that someone is the last person to have been in Hannah's company proves that the defendant had the opportunity to abduct, but it proves not much more."

As for Graham, much of what is known of her last night before disappearing was captured on surveillance videos.

Authorities say she met friends at a restaurant for dinner Sept. 12 before stopping by two parties at off-campus housing units. She left the second party alone and eventually texted a friend saying she was lost, authorities said.

Recorded images show her walking unsteadily and even running at times, past a pub and a service station and then onto the Downtown Mall a seven-block pedestrian strip including the Tempo Restaurant, a bar where police had said witnesses saw them together.

The restaurant's owner, Brice Cunningham, put out a statement Thursday that filled in some details about that encounter. It said the under-aged Graham never entered the bar and wasn't served alcohol there, but was seen by the restaurant's bouncers leaving the area outside the bar with Matthew. The Washington Post further quoted Cunningham as saying Matthew briefly went inside to buy two beers before walking off with her.

Matthew worked as an operating room technician at the University of Virginia Medical Center since Aug. 12, 2012, the university said. The charges surprised Dave Hansen, who met Matthew a decade ago when Hansen served as an assistant pastor at an area church, and saw him again recently at the hospital.

"I always thought he was a gentle giant, just a nice guy," Hansen said. "He seemed genuine with his faith and spirituality. ... I don't see him doing this at all, but that's usually the case, I guess."

Matthew attended Liberty University from 2000 to 2002, said officials with the Lynchburg school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. The school's athletics website listed him as a defensive lineman on the football team.

More recently, he served as a volunteer for the football team at The Covenant School, a private Christian grade school in Charlottesville, where officials said he passed background and reference checks before taking the volunteer job.

Matthew has had some past brushes with the law, but their details aren't public. Online court records show Matthew was convicted of trespassing in 2010, and charged but not prosecuted with assault and attempted grand larceny in a 2009 case. He had a state taxi permit from 2007 to 2010, and picked up several traffic infractions, records show.


Graczyk reported from League City, Texas. Associated Press reporters Alan Suderman, Michael Felberbaum and Steve Szkotak in Richmond, Virginia, and David Warren in Dallas contributed to this report.


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