Remains identified as missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Human remains found on an abandoned property off in Albemarle County were positively identified as missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

The remains were taken to the Medical Examiner's Office in Richmond for positive identification after a search team made up of Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department members made the grim discovery on Saturday.

Hannah Graham disappeared from the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville on September 13.

Hannah Graham disappeared from the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville on September 13.

Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford thanked the numerous volunteers and law enforcement personnel that spent weeks searching for Graham. Lunsford said now that Graham's remains have been recovered,  the emphasis can shift to prosecution.

"The focus of the investigation now is to determine what charges will be brought and the appropriate time to make those charges," Lunsford said. "We are working diligently with local law enforcement on the investigation to ensure that we make the best determination for our community and the Grahams in the pursuit of justice."

Albemarle County Police Department officials said Friday afternoon that they notified Hannah Graham's parents before the news was made public.

"Following the positive identification, Albemarle County Police Chief, Colonel Steve Sellers and ACPD Detective Sergeant Terry Walls notified Hannah’s parents, John and Sue Graham. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Graham family and Hannah’s friends during this incredibly difficult time," police officials wrote in a news release.

Graham disappeared from the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville on September 13.

John and Sue Graham

John and Sue Graham

"When we first met Chief Longo he promised to find our precious daughter, Hannah, and during five long weeks his resolve to fulfill that promise never wavered," wrote Hannah's parent John and Sue Graham, in a statement.

"When we started this journey together we all hoped for a happier ending. Sadly that was not to be, but due to the tenacity and determination of Chief Longo, Hannah is coming home to us and we will be eternally grateful to him for this." [Read their entire statement here.]

The tip believed to  lead police to Hannah's remains was made by Bobby Pugh, a landscaper who was headed to a job site on Sept. 30 when he saw something he said startled him.

Like Pugh, thousands of people called in tips with any bit of information that could help law enforcement find Hannah. Eighteen days later police were able to follow up on that tip.

Albemarle County Police stressed that they are working with numerous local, state and federal partners on the complex case.

"We are working with the Charlottesville Police Department, the Fairfax City Police Department and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office which is the lead agency on the Morgan Harrington investigation," officials said.

The last hours Hannah was seen

On the evening of Sept. 12, she was seen at a party before friends saw her at an apartment complex a couple of blocks away. That was shortly before midnight. About 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 13, a surveillance camera caught her outside of a pub, about three-quarters of a mile from the apartment complex.

Other surveillance cameras captured her, as she ran past a gas station, walked past an Italian cafe and then by a jewelry store. These cameras capture her route along the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants.

The cameras also showed a man, later identified as Jesse Matthew Jr., first follow Graham and then put his arm around her as they walked toward the Tempo Bar, where reports said Matthew had been earlier in the evening.

At 1:20 a.m., Graham texted her friends to say she was lost and trying to find a party. She and a man said to be Matthew were seen having drinks at a bar between 1:30 and 2 a.m., though the bar denies she was ever inside.

Police believe she may have been under the influence of alcohol, making her less able to defend herself.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 13, police said more surveillance cameras  showed Graham leaving the Tempo Bar area around 2 a.m. Matthew is believed to be the last person who saw Graham alive.

He was named a person of interest after police conducted a search of his vehicle and then his home. Once forensic evidence returned, a warrant was issued charging him with the abduction of Graham, with intent to defile.

Authorities later found Matthew 1,300 miles away camping on a beach in Galveston, Texas. The 32-year-old Matthew was returned to Virginia and charged.

His next court hearing is scheduled for December 4.

Matthew was indicted Monday in connection with a 2005 rape in Fairfax, Virginia. Late last month, CBS 6 reporter Laura French broke the news that Matthew was linked to Morgan Harrington‘s  2009 abduction and murder as well.

What is known about Jesse Matthew? 

The day after Jesse Matthew was named a person of interest in Graham’s disappearance, he went into Charlottesville Police Headquarters and asked to secure a lawyer. He did, and then he left the building without speaking to police. He reportedly sped away in his sister’s car, shaking the law enforcement detail overtly following him.

The next time police saw him, he was arrested in Galveston, Texas.

Early in the evening on the Friday that Graham disappeared, Matthew attended the Covenant Eagle’s football game, the team of a prestigious private school where he coached. That was after his work as an orderly at the UVa. Medical Hospital. An independently reported timeline followed Matthew's steps throughout the evening the night Graham went missing.

In the report multiple women, and men, comment on the roughness of Matthew, which stands against other reports of his gentleness and laid back nature.

“He’s as gentle as they come,” said his dad, and friends from Monticello High School described Matthew as “the big man on campus” and “a teddy bear.”

However, court records obtained by CBS 6 News reveal a man who may also have had a violent temper at times.

There are also two instances when sexual assaults were alleged against Matthew, once at Liberty University and once at Christopher Newport University. The Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney said the alleged victim at Liberty did not want to prosecute. CNU officials said they are withholding his record pursuant to the exception from mandatory disclosure, in cooperation with law-enforcement agencies.

Matthew left each school shortly after both allegations were made; Liberty in Oct. 2002 and Christopher Newport in Sept. 2003.

Incidents Jesse Matthew Jr.  has been connected to:

  • Oct. 17, 2002 – Alleged sexual assault at Liberty University
  • Sept. 7, 2003 – Reported Christopher Newport University assault
  • Sept. 24, 2005 – Northern Virginia rape (forensic evidence linked to Morgan Harrington case)
  • Oct. 17, 2009 – Morgan Harrington disappearance
  • Sept. 13, 2014 – Hannah Graham disappearance

Law enforcement investigating cases for possible connection to Matthew:

  • July 24, 2003 — Autumn Day in Newport News
  • Sept. 7, 2003 – Sophia Rivera in Newport News
  • August 26, 2009 – Heidi Childs and David Metzler, in Blacksburg
  • Oct. 10, 2009 – Cassandra Morton, not far from Lynchburg
  • Sept. 13, 2010 – Samantha Clarke, in Orange County

Cases unsolved in the area near Charlottesville 

  • Jan. 24, 2010 – Joan Cook, Roanoke County
  • Nov. 21, 2011 — Lauren Smith, Madison County
  • Nov. 20, 2012 — Dashad Sage Smith, Charlottesville
  • August 3, 2013 – Alexis Murphy, Shipman (Randy Taylor jailed for this, body never found)

Anyone with information about Jesse Matthew, Hannah Graham or Morgan Harrington is asked to call the tipline at 434-295-3851. All Hannah Graham surveillance videos can be seen here. All reports filed on this case can be found here.

This is a developing story.

26 comments

      • Tired

        I have trouble reading articles where he’s assumed to be the only suspect. I had a run-in with him on the night of Morgan Harrington’s disappearance, and he had several other men with him at the time. The police know this, and they have a lot more information than people would think, which is probably why they’re holding off charging him on the murders. There is no statute of limitation on murder, and they can wait until they have their ducks in a row for more than just him. And we’re just finding out that Alexis Murphy’s car had more than one DNA profile. How many of these cases had multiple DNA profiles, and why are they just charging the one guy if so, not mentioning the others in court? The same GROUP of men, or subsets of that group, could be responsible for several of these abductions.

        I also know that at least one of his “friends” from the Harrington case has a long criminal history, and cops in other cities and other states have let him off repeatedly. So if people allow the police to leave dangerous criminals on the streets year after year, decade after decade, of course they’re going to abduct women. I don’t see how we can blame God or any other spiritual entity for not cleaning up after a bad situation that we had opportunities to fix through our public employees, but chose not to do so.

      • Belsma

        Hey, Ticklebottom, are you talking to me? If so, not very “Christian” like, which is the exact reason I left the “cult”. I grew tired of the cafeteria christian way, you know, the pick and choose what works for you. You proved that in your comment. Lovely of you.
        Thoughts are with Hannah’s family and friends.

      • Belsma

        @Tired, he has been charged. That is why he is in jail. It’s just a matter of time before more charges come. Of course Alexis Murphy’s fathers car had more DNA in it. He drove it, she drove it and do you know how many DNA samples you could get out of my car? Probably 15. If there were others involved Matthew would be singing like a canary, like Taylor did claiming there was someone else involved. IMHO you are a troll, or just living in a fantasy world.

  • Bonnie McMichael

    I am truely saddened by this news.. My thought’s and Prayers go out to her family.. I was Praying that she would be found alive.. I do hope the animal who did this will be sentenced to death for this.. There is no greater loss in the world than the loss of a child..

    • jenny

      Wow I’m speechless how could somebody do such a awful thing I hope this person gets the death penalty smh r.i.p Hannah my prayers go out to her parents and all her family who are going thru a lot of pain this is so sad.

  • Anita

    I am so saddened by this outcome. My thought and prayers goes out to Hannah’s parents, family and friends. May you RIP sweet angel……… tears!

  • athynz

    My thoughts and prayers to the family as well – along with my hope that they find the animal who did this and give him the same fate she was given at the hands of her killer.

      • athynz

        Personally I believe that Jesse Matthews did it – and likely had something to do with Alexis Murphy’s disappearance as well. That belief is not proof though and I hope the police find that proof so her parents can have closure.

      • Lacedaemon

        Well Athynz, what you believe doesn’t mean anything in relation to reality. Keep your personal beliefs to yourself and allow the justice system to discern and evaluate the facts.

      • Belsma

        @Lace..we don’t have to keep our beliefs to ourselves. This is a message board, we can offer our opinions and thoughts with free will! Imagine that!

  • Belsma

    So sad. My thoughts are with her family friends. I could not imagine what these families go through and will continue to go through. Swift justice is in order.

    • Crushing

      @ Bytch a$$ John, you are a bytch a$$. This is not the time for dumb a$$ comments. I agree with Missy. You are a punk bytch. RIP Hannah Graham!!!!

    • Ms. Richmond

      John suppose if there is more than three redneck trailor park there? Oh wait I forgot they don’t work. All that do is have babies and watch honey boo boo.

  • gerold

    yea convict him he will be out in ten years doing the same thing.people you do realize we are all punished differently now right.google eric holders letter to police agencies and schools around the country.Its a shame to be equal means to punish only whites more.

  • Paula

    Belsma nobody want to read your dumb comment. Maybe you don’t know where God is because you are too dumb to know him if you see him

Comments are closed.