Matthew indicted on counts of first degree murder, abduction with intent to defile in Graham case

Commonwealth's Attorney will not bring capital murder charge

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Albemarle County Police Chief Steve Sellers and Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denies Lunsford gave a joint press conference to announce the close of the investigation into the Graham case and the charges brought against Jesse Matthew. 

John Pappas | Cavalier Daily

Jesse Matthew has been indicted on the counts of first degree murder and abduction with the intent to defile in connection with the disappearance and death of second-year College student Hannah Graham, the Albemarle County Police Department and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney announced at a joint press conference Tuesday morning. The maximum penalty for each of these offenses is life in prison.

Albemarle County Chief of Police Steve Sellers said the investigation into Graham’s disappearance and murder is now complete.

Matthew has not been indicted for capital murder, and would not face the death penalty upon conviction.

“The charges that the jury will hear are the charges that the prosecutor feels comfortable and and feels the prosecutor has probable cause to bring,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford said. “In this case, first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile.”

The case was transferred from the Charlottesville Police Department to the Albemarle County Police Department following the discovery of Graham’s remains in Albemarle County on Oct. 18, Sellers said.

“This transition was made extremely easy since Chief Longo requested our involvement in the search and investigation at the very early stages,” Sellers said.

Lunsford said she could not comment on the details of the case, why certain charges were brought or on the trial strategy.

“As an attorney involved in a matter that may be tried to a jury, I am ethically prohibited from making statements that may interfere with the fairness of a trial,” Lunsford said.

Both Sellers and Lunsford said they were grateful to those on “Team Hannah” and for the community efforts in response to last fall’s events. Graham was last seen on Sept. 13, and thousands of members of the Charlottesville community came together in the days that followed as part of a massive search effort coordinated by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Graham’s remains were ultimately discovered by a sheriff’s deputy with the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office.

“The prosecutions for the abduction and murder of Hannah will bring Mr. Matthew to justice for these crimes — crimes that were committed against Hannah Graham, against her family and against our community,” Lunsford said.

Lunsford said she has discussed the specific charges with the Grahams on “many occasions,” and asked that the community respect the privacy of the Graham family at this time.

Matthew was also indicted on two charges of reckless driving following an incident on Sept. 20 in which he sped away from the Charlottesville Police Department after meeting with an attorney. Matthew was located in Galveston, Texas on Sept. 24, after which he was extradited to Virginia. Each reckless driving charge is a misdemeanor, and carries a maximum sentence of 12 months.

Matthew is also on trial in Fairfax for sexual assault. Matthew allegedly assaulted a Fairfax county woman on her way home from the grocery store in 2005.

The trial, originally set to begin Mar. 9, will be determined at a hearing on Friday. The delay was requested by Matthew’s attorney, James Camblos, who said the defense needed more time to review documents brought forward by the prosecution.

“It’s hard to say how the cases will proceed in terms of which will go first,” Lunsford said.

“The two cases are sort of connected because there is the same defendant. Other than that, it really doesn’t matter which prosecution goes first — it only matters that we’re able to provide a fair trial.”

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