By LARRY O’DELL
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The man already charged with the abduction of a University of Virginia student who was missing for weeks before her body was discovered has been indicted on a count of first-degree murder in the case, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Jesse Matthew Jr., 33, was indicted on the murder charge Monday, Albemarle County prosecutor Denise Lunsford said at a news conference. Matthew already was charged with abduction with intent to defile in the case. The 18-year-old Graham disappeared in September and was found dead in Albemarle County a few weeks later.
Lunsford declined to say why Matthew was not charged with the higher count of capital murder. The abduction and first-degree murder charges are punishable by up to life in prison.
Matthew also faces two counts of reckless driving in the case.
Police have said forensic evidence also links Matthew to the 2009 disappearance and death of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, whose body also was found in the county. Lunsford said “there are no pending charges” against Matthew in the Harrington case.
“The simple fact is the case involving Hannah Graham was ready to be charged first,” she said.
Graham vanished after a night out with friends Sept. 12. According to police, she left an off-campus party alone and texted a friend saying she was lost.
In surveillance video, she can be seen walking unsteadily and even running at times, past a pub and a service station and then onto a seven-block strip of bars, restaurants and shops. Another video captured her leaving a restaurant with Matthew, who had an arm around her.
Graham’s disappearance prompted a month-long search involving thousands of volunteers as well as police. It ended when searchers found her remains Oct. 18 in rural Albemarle County, roughly six miles from the hayfield where Harrington’s body was found in January 2010.
Harrington disappeared while attending a Metallica concert at U.Va in October 2009. Her T-shirt was later found on a nearby tree limb.
After police named Matthew a person of interest in Graham’s disappearance, he fled and was later apprehended on a beach in Texas. He was charged with abduction with intent to defile, a felony that empowered police to swab his cheek for a DNA sample. That sample connected Matthew to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax County, according to authorities. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.
The DNA evidence in the Fairfax sexual assault, in turn, linked Matthew to the Harrington case.
Matthew previously had been accused of raping students at Liberty University and Christopher Newport University in 2002 and 2003. Matthew had played football at both schools. The cases were dropped after the women declined to press charges.
Matthew’s first court appearance on the newest charges in the Harrington case is scheduled for Feb. 18, Lunsford said. He will appear by video link from Fairfax County, where he is in jail awaiting trial in
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