Facts released in Graham, Harrington cases

Matthew confirms facts beyond reasonable doubt


Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci gives statement following hearing.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

Jesse Leroy Matthew, Jr. pleaded guilty to the murders of Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington and to abduction with intent to defile each of them Wednesday.

Matthew was indicted by grand juries for these murders in April and Sept. 2015, respectively, and would have faced the death penalty had he been convicted.

According to Matthew’s plea agreement, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences, which is the court’s statutory maximum for these charges. He will serve these in addition to the three life terms he is already serving for an abduction, sexual assault and attempted murder charge from 2005 in Fairfax County, to which Matthew pleaded guilty without admitting to the crime.

The plea bargain stipulated Matthew waive his right to appeal the decision of the court or withdraw the plea, as well as any right to early release or parole.

“This resolution serves the interests of justice by ensuring the defendant will never again pose a threat to public safety,” Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert N. Tracci said in a press release. “It is consistent with the wishes of the Graham and Harrington families, and provides a measure of legal finality in cases that would have been subject to highly public trials and protracted appellate review.”

As part of the plea agreement, Matthew signed the Commonwealth’s Statements of Facts concerning both Harrington’s and Graham’s cases, stipulating that the facts would have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt had the case gone to trial. The statements included DNA evidence connecting Matthew to both crimes.

According to the statement of facts regarding Harrington, she was a 20-year-old student at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2009. On Oct. 17, she and her friends attended a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena. Her friends were prepared to testify that Harrington was intoxicated before and during the concert. They also said Morgan left to use the bathroom around 8:30 p.m., and when they called her 18 minutes later, she told them she couldn’t get back inside the arena and would get a ride home.

Four witnesses who took a cab ride to JPJ on the night in question testified to seeing Harrington when they got out of their cab. The description of their driver and his car matched descriptions of Matthew and the car he drove for Access Taxi at the time. Another witness saw Harrington on Copeley Bridge at approximately 9:23 p.m. attempting to get a ride, and her purse was found by a University student the next morning.

Matthew’s phone records revealed an hour and a half of inactivity after 9:30 p.m., followed by a phone call traced to the general area of Anchorage Farm, where Harrington’s remains were found Jan. 26, 2010.

On Nov. 11, 2010, Charlottesville Police found the blood-stained Pantera t-shirt Harrington was wearing on a property on 15th Street NW. Upon analyzing the stain, a forensic scientist found the DNA contained the same majority contributor as the DNA recovered through a 2005 Fairfax investigation. Later analysis found the DNA profile from Harrington’s shirt matched Matthew’s.

“The probability of the DNA profile of the t-shirt belonging to someone other than Matthew was greater than 1 in 7.2 billion, or approximately the entire world population,” the statement of facts reads.

A dog hair was also found on Harrington’s shirt. DNA analysis determined it did not match the Harrington family dog, but had the same DNA haplotype as a dog Matthew had at the time. The haplotype is found in 13.3 percent of dogs in the United States.

According to the statement of facts concerning Graham, she was an 18-year-old University student in the fall of 2014. On Sept. 12, 2014, Graham and her friends attended a dinner event at Fig on the Corner, followed by two parties.

Graham’s friends would have testified that Graham became increasingly intoxicated throughout the night and left a party alone around midnight because she said she was not feeling well. She texted her friends indicating that she was lost, and referenced the Downtown Mall.

After Graham did not attend a volunteer event the following morning and her friends were unable to contact her, they reported her missing.

Witnesses said they saw Matthew at several local bars on the night of Sept. 12 and the morning of Sept. 13. All of these witnesses planned to testify that Matthew made multiple women uncomfortable at every bar he attended by touching them inappropriately and making unwanted sexual advances.

Security footage showed Matthew walking westbound on the Downtown Mall shortly after 1 a.m. The footage showed Matthew turn around to catch up to Graham, who was walking eastbound on the mall at the same time.

A witness who observed Matthew put his arm around Graham planned to testify that he told Matthew, “you don’t even know her,” but was told to be quiet.

This witness and the people they were with followed Matthew and Graham to Tempo, a bar where Matthew bought drinks for himself and Graham.

“These witnesses would have testified that as they were leaving Tempo, one witness commented to the other that ‘he’s gonna f*** her up,’ referring to the defendant and Hannah,” the statement reads.

The last known witness to see Hannah alive saw her on 4th street and heard her say to Matthew, “I’m not getting in that car with you! What is it, stolen?”

On Oct. 18th, 2015, a search party found Hannah’s remains near 3193 Old Lynchburg Road. A resident of the surrounding area reported seeing Matthew’s car between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Sept. 13.

Graham’s inside-out and unzipped shirt was found near her body, as well as her jeans, which had one leg inside-out. Police never recovered her undergarments, shoes or cell phone.

Based on the absence of significant skeletal trauma, the doctor who conducted Graham’s autopsy determined the most likely specific cause of her death was either strangulation or suffocation.

Further investigation found that Matthew missed a meeting 7:30 a.m. the morning of Oct. 18th, and plant material found in his car matched plant material from the location where Graham’s body was found.

On Sept. 19, the police searched Matthew’s apartment and retrieved a pair of shorts which had a sperm stain on it and DNA from Matthew and Graham. Shortly after, Matthew obtained a new license from the local DMV and withdrew all but less than thirty dollars from his bank account.

On Sept. 21, at which point Matthew knew he was a suspect in Graham’s disappearance, he fled Virginia in his sister’s car. Law enforcement later discovered that he checked in to Village Creek State Park in Lumberton, Texas under the name John Carr and an address in ‘Cville, Maryland.’ He was eventually found in Galveston, Texas.

At his plea hearing Wednesday, which allowed for the release of the statements of fact, Matthew, speaking through his lawyer, apologized for his actions.

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