Northern Virginia Nightmare
Driving his sister’s 1997 Nissan Sentra, Jesse LeRoy Matthew, Jr., 32, headed south to Texas, fleeing from Virginia State police surveillance. On September 23, he walked into Swedes Grocery store at Crystal Beach and bought some skeeter spray. He inquired about camping out on the beach.
“He seemed in a hurry,” said the store employee, who told him it was ok to camp on the beach, but the mosquitos were horrible.
Matthew pitched a small tent on the beach near Rollover Pass in the Gilchrist community, approximately 1300 miles from Charlottesville, Virginia. Someone thought he looked suspicious and reported him to the Galveston police. Deputies responded and routinely ran a check on his license plates. They discovered outstanding warrants in Virginia and arrested him. He did not attempt to resist arrest and was taken to Galveston County Jail and held to await extradition.
Matthew is wanted on suspicion of abduction with the intent to defile charges in the Hannah Graham case. Hannah, just 18, disappeared right after midnight, two weeks ago in Charlottesville, on September 13. She’s a straight A sophomore at the University of Virginia: tall, slender, blue eyes and freckles. The search for her continues.
Charlottesville Police Chief Longo, told reporters Matthew is believed to be the last person to see Hannah. A search warrant issued September 19 allowed authorities into Matthew’s apartment where suspicious clothing was found and sent to a lab for analysis. The clothing will provide forensic evidence in Hannah’s case and hopefully help to bring justice and closure to hers and other unsolved related cases.
It was heartbreaking to watch distraught parents, John and Susan Graham, when they reached out to the public at a press release on national TV a week ago. Susan clutched a stuffed bunny named BB, her daughter’s favorite toy given to her when she was an infant. BB was considered to be Hannah’s “guardian angel”. Hannah left BB behind for the first time ever when she recently returned to college after a visit home.
“Hannah is beyond precious to us,” John said. “We are truly devastated by her disappearance. It’s totally out of character for us not to have heard from her, and we fear foul play.”
He also spoke of her love for helping others and said, “Last spring break, instead of hanging around on the beach, she spent a week in Tuscaloosa rebuilding houses.”
John’s composure and strength was admirable, as he held back his emotions and pleaded for any information anyone might have about Hannah.
The night Hannah vanished, video cameras and eye witnesses throughout the open, pedestrian friendly Downtown Mall area, lined with retail shops and restaurants, created a timeline of her movements, according to a CNN affiliate.
On September 12, about 11: 50 p.m., Hannah was seen at a party, then a nearby apartment complex. One hour later, she is spotted at a pub, three-quarters of a mile from the complex.
Videoed running past a service station ten minutes later, the footage did not reveal anyone chasing her. Five minutes later, witnesses say they saw her four blocks from the service station, in a restaurant. Twenty-one minutes later, surveillance from an Italian café shows her walking by. Two minutes later, she passes a jewelry store. She texted friends at 1:20 a.m., stating she is lost and looking for a party. Her last text says she is helping a drunken woman. Between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. she is seen having a drink with a young, black man at a bar with a goatee and bald head, which does not fit Matthew’s description.
Hannah is the fourth woman, between 17 and 20 years of age, to vanish from the Route 29 corridor area close to the UVA campus. Virginia Tech student, Morgan Harrington of Charlottesville, 21, went to a Metallica concert on campus October 17, 2009 and never came home. Her body was discovered on a 700 acre farm three months later. A T-shirt she was wearing when she disappeared was found very near where Graham recently disappeared.
Harrington’s mother definitely feels the crimes are related and told a reporter Route 29 has an ‘infamous reputation’. “I don’t know. Either there is a commonality or a crime spree,” she said.
“Certainly the question has arisen. It’s certainly a legitimate question,” Chief Longo told reporters.
Now sources close to the Graham investigation have confirmed to CBS 6 reporter forensic evidence belonging to Matthew matched forensic evidence collected during the Harrington investigation.
Missing right after midnight, September 13, 2010, is 19 year old, white with brown hair, Samantha Clarke of Orange, located near Charlottesville. She told her younger brother she was going out for the night, took her house keys and never returned. She is still considered missing.
Alexis Murphy, 17, of nearby Lovingston, a striking, dark haired black girl was a senior at Nelson County High School, when she vanished near the same area on August 3, 2013. Recently convicted in July, Randy Taylor, 43, received two life terms for Murphy’s abduction and murder. The evidence in the case was sealed. Her remains have not been found.
It is extremely rare for someone to be convicted of murder when there is no body, but it has happened in Virginia once before. Taylor pled not guilty and maintains he is innocent insisting, “Authorities have arrested the wrong man.”
In addition to Graham’s disappearance, Matthew also has been questioned in connection with an alleged sexual assault nearly 12 years ago and has an extensive criminal history. According to a statement by Lynchburg police, a woman reported she was raped on the campus of Liberty University on October 17, 2002. Matthew was a student there at the time and played football. No charges were filed because the woman did not want to go forward with the case. Matthew told authorities the woman consented and there were no witnesses.
It is interesting to note the abduction dates for the Liberty and the Harrington case are both October 17, but different years. And the dates for Clark and Graham disappearances are September 13, but different years.
In Fairfax city, September 24, 2005, a 26 year old woman was raped and assaulted in the pool area at a condominium. A passerby startled her assailant and he ran away. The victim provided details for a composite sketch of her attacker. The sketch bares striking similarities to Matthew’s picture. The DNA in that case was linked to DNA in the Harrington case, but was previously unmatched to any suspect.
Matthew was flown back to Virginia on September 26 and taken to Albemarle County Jail. He is expected to make an initial court appearance on Thursday when he will face his charges. Of course, he is innocent until proven guilty, but students at the UVA campus and their parents are expressing a great deal of relief due to his arrest.
Hopefully, all of those affected by these horrific crimes can look forward to some long awaited answers to some very serious questions.
Even though an arrest has been made, according to Chief Longo, “There is still a long road ahead.”