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Hannah Graham’s parents: The light UVa. college student ‘radiated can never be extinguished’

Hannah Graham’s parents: The light UVa. college student ‘radiated can never be extinguished’
Posted at 4:54 PM, Oct 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-24 18:01:28-04

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. -- The parents of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham released a statement after the human remains discovered at an abandoned property in Albemarle County last weekend were positively identified as their daughter.

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. 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.

The search for Hannah would not have been successful were it not for the many, many people who helped, including Mark Eggeman and VDEM, local, state and federal law enforcement officers, the staff of the City of Charlottesville, and the dedicated members of numerous volunteer search and rescue groups. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We also give our heartfelt thanks to all those who took part in the community search, to the citizens of Charlottesville, and to the individuals, businesses and organizations, both local and national, who provided untold resources to help support the search for Hannah. We would also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to those who provided support to us and to our family throughout this ordeal, including the staff and students of the University of Virginia, our friends, neighbors and work colleagues, the staff and students of West Potomac High School, Hannah’s friends, and the countless kind people who have sent us messages of support. We thank you all.

We are devastated by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Hannah. Over recent weeks Hannah has been described by those who know her as bright, witty, thoughtful, loyal and fun to be around. She was all those things and more. Put simply, Hannah lit up our lives, the lives of our family and the lives of her friends and others who knew her. Although we have lost our precious Hannah, the light she radiated can never be extinguished. We will hold it in our hearts forever and it will help sustain us as we face a painful future without her. We are so very proud of Hannah and all that she achieved. Although only 18 years old, Hannah had just started her second year at the University of Virginia when she disappeared and was excelling academically. She loved U.Va. and the City of Charlottesville, and was very happy to return there after the summer break. Hannah had intended to pursue a career in global public health, she wanted to help others, and it is heart-breaking for us that she was robbed so tragically of the opportunity to fulfill her dream.

In closing we would like to draw attention to the fact that, although the waiting has ended for us, there are other families both in Virginia and beyond who have not been as fortunate in that their loved ones are still missing. Please continue to hold these families in your thoughts and prayers.

We do not intend to make any further statements at this time, nor to comment on the ongoing criminal investigation. We ask the media to respect our privacy and that of our family as we continue to grieve. -- John and Sue Graham

hannah graham new

The president of the University of Virginia also released a statement about the sophomore's death. 

"Hannah showed great promise as a student and as a young woman. She brought immense energy and delight to her learning at the University, and she was a source of friendship and joy for so many people here at the University and abroad, particularly her friends on the ski team," UVa. President Teresa Sullivan wrote. "For Hannah’s young life to end so tragically, and for her destiny of promise to be left unfulfilled, is an affront to the sanctity of life and to the natural order of human events."

"The focus of the investigation now is to determine what charges will be brought and the appropriate time to make those charges. 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 Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford said in a statement.

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 found the remains Saturday. The Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that the remains found on Oct. 18 are those of Hannah Graham.

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.

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.