UVa. president: Hannah Graham’s death is ‘affront to sanctity of life’

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University of Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The president of the University of Virginia issued a statement Friday afternoon after the remains found at an abandoned property in Albemarle County last weekend were positively identified as missing student Hannah Graham.

To the University Community:

It is with tremendous sadness that I write to inform you of the confirmed death of second-year U.Va. student Hannah Graham, who had been missing since early on the morning of September 13.

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. Thomas Jefferson wanted students here to fulfill “destinies of high promise.” 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.

This is a sorrowful day in the life of the University, and our entire community is grieving with the Graham family. We offer our sincere condolences for their loss, and we will continue to hold them in our thoughts and prayers in the days ahead. –Teresa A. Sullivan, President

hannah search

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.

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.

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