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

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

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.


  • joanne

    Rest in peace Hannah. To the Graham family, my heart aches for you; you are in my prayers. God bless you all.

  • Linda Peay

    I am sorry — even though the outcome seemed inevitable, it just hurts deeply to read the truth that Hannah is no longer here with us. I pray her parents can smile again—knowing that the heavenly reunion will be so much sweeter. The ties here on earth are too strong to have it all end here. I pray you feel her presence as you cope with the reality of the loss. Let justice prevail.

  • RoseMary Davis

    Our heartfelt prayers and thoughts are with The Graham family and her friends as we grieve with you in the loss of your precious beautiful Hannah \o/ We will never forget Hannah and will hold her in our memories and hearts forever <3

  • Denise

    You’re Wonderful Parents. Your Message was Heaven Sent and So Heartfelt. I Pray that GOD will continuously give The Family Inner Peace. I will be Praying for You All. Much Love & GOD BLESS..

  • Jennifer

    Heartfelt condolences to Hannah’s family and friends. No one who has undergone such a traumatic loss can really understand what you are going through and have gone through. My prayers are with you. Let us all pray for our nation, our young people, our leaders. Let us pray that violence and crime can be lessened. May God have mercy on America and upon us all. May God show us any possible changes or solutions that can be wrought. May we all realize that what we fill our minds and eyes with can affect us (everyone of course is different). Perhaps some of us may need to cut down on the violence and other types of media or entertainment we allow ourselves to see. Perhaps the law needs to be made stricter against certain things on the internet. Certainly all of us need to call upon God for His grace, His mercy, and His love. I am so sorry. God loves all of us and He does not cause evil nor does He allow it to happen to anyone. We have a spiritual enemy, satan who wants to kill, steal and destroy and who tries to work through people as much as he can.

    • daryl

      We need stricter laws, but not on freedom or internet. That will only be used to advance mainstream censorship agendas. If you want stricter laws start by turning back the clock to when we had public lynching of rapists near the Courthouse. That will keep negro rapists at bey as did in the past. I know its true. God bless

  • Brenda Foreman

    So sorry for your lose . I can’t even imagine the pain you are feeling. I know you said Hannah wanted to help others and she will be helping others because this monster of a person will never harm anyone else. RIP Hannah fly with the angels . God Bless .

  • Rosa Johnson

    did jesse put something in her drink, said something to let her know that he was dangerous, spotted her as she was trying to get home? she was already being helped by another person, when jesse came and told the guy that he would help her. and now, she is gone. so sorry Hannah. so very sorry you had the bad luck to capture the attention of a monster.

    • Meaghan

      It’s possible he did put something in her drink, but she looked out of it or wasted when she was walking around by herself. And she was leaning on him in the surveillance video, so he might have drugged her too. There was only one other guy who said he was going to help her but when he saw Matthew put his arm around Hannah, he backed away. No words were exchanged though between him and Matthew

  • Rosa Johnson

    my beautiful granddaughter is 18 and special light in her just like Hannah. She took a summer job this year and everything that happened to Hannah is what I worried would happen to her. it only takes 5 minutes. she thought I was being overly protective and worrying for nothing. I am so glad she made it o.k, though the last day of her job, she had a flat-tire on the highway. And when pretty Hannah went missing she understood why I was so concerned. Hannah did nothing wrong. she was living her life having fun, working towards her future. I so wish things were different for her. Hannah brought the state of Va. together as well as the nation. you were all of our child Hannah and we will always remember you. God bless you and your family. you saved so many other lives brave girl.

    • Paula

      John you could have kept that comment to yourself. People on here is pouring out their love for Hannah and her parent and you come here with hateful.

      • daryl

        Paula you could have kept that comment to yourself. John on here saying exactly what ppl need to and should, but NEVER hear because modern American society is a politically correct dictatorship. For example even though many lives would be saved by telling our daughters to avoid “groids” we are not allowed to. What does that say for our priorities?

  • Shirley James

    John and Sue Graham – Since September 13th, Hannah has lived in the hearts of all of us who kept this vigil with you and prayed for her safe return. Although I know there is nothing that can replace your precious daughter please know that the thoughts and prayers of parents all over the world are with you as you learn to go forward.

  • just thinking

    To the family we morn with you and for you. I have followed this story from day one. So sorry for the tragic ending. Prayers are with you all. To the young man who saw the birds, maybe that will shine a light to clues in the future. God bless you all.

  • Paula

    Rosa we all feel the same way you do. We talk to our children and grandchildren. Boys & girls. They don’t seen to take things serious. They thinks certain things won’t happen to them so we just pray that God protect them. We ask everyone to pray for strengh for the family of Hannah and that they are able to get through this dark time in their life.

  • Debbie

    Prayers for the family. As a mother of a college student, my heart is grieving for you. As a Christian, I pray that God comforts you and that you are able to find peace.

  • Pat

    My heart breaks seeing Hannah’s parents in so much pain. You can see the pain in their faces. It’s heartbreaking. I pray that The Lord helps them through this.

  • daryl

    Funny that a girl who planed a career in “global health” was a victim of an interracial hate crime. She probably would have become an extremely nieve liberal idiot traveling to Africa to fight Ebola and AIDS so the world can fill worth more blacks. Now she got killed by a feral black right at home.

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.