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Remains identified as missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham

Remains identified as missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham
Posted at 4:42 PM, Oct 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-24 23:26:17-04

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.