ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va - Jesse Matthew Jr., the man accused in the abduction and murder of second-year University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, appeared in an Albemarle County courtroom Tuesday afternoon where his charges were upgraded to capital murder. This means Matthew will be eligible for the death penalty. Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford said new forensic evidence obtained in late February made her go to a grand jury again and seek an increased charge.
"If this matter goes to trial the Commonwealth will seek the death penalty," Lunsford said.
Matthew was brought into the courtroom around 5 p.m. Monday, and the court informed everyone that Matthew had been served an indictment earlier that day. He now faces capital murder under first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile.
With the upgraded charge, Matthew is now entitled to two capital certified attorneys. There is also an automatic appeal for capital murder cases, said WTVR CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone.
Capital defender Doug Ramseur from Richmond will lead the case. Michael Hemenway from Charlottesville and unidentified counsel from Norfolk will also be part of the team.
Graham's parents were in the courtroom, along with Gil Harrington, whose daughter Morgan was killed in 2009. Gil Harrington said she believe Matthew was responsible for Morgan's death. A warrant reveals a DNA connection between Matthew and Morgan Harrington, but no charges have been filed against Matthew in Harrington's disappearance.
The judge denied Matthew's request to keep his public defender Jim Camblos, as a fourth member of counsel.
"I am not on the team anymore. I have nothing to say," Camblos said outside of court.
Camblos remained co-counsel in Matthew's Fairfax attempted capital murder and sexual assault trial. That is scheduled to begin June 8.
WTVR CBS 6 reporter Laura French said that Matthew entered the courtroom and made direct eye contact with Graham's parents, and with Harrington.
Harrington, as well as John and Susan Graham, had a front row seat at Tuesday's hearing to face the man they believe killed their daughters.
"I'll be satisfied if this particular predator never is able to hurt anyone again that was always my intent to save the next girl. Unfortunately, we couldn't save Hannah Graham," said Harrington.
Matthew's mother, father, uncle and girlfriend were all present at Tuesday's hearing and left the courtroom with no comment.
In March, Matthew's July trial date was pushed back after a judge granted his defense attorneys' motion to hire their own forensics experts. Matthew's defense said their experts would need time to challenge DNA evidence the prosecution intended to enter at trial.
If Matthew enters a plea for first-degree murder he would not be eligible for appeal, said Stone.
Matthew will return to court at 1 p.m. on June 25.