RICHMOND, Va. — Even with a suspect charged in the disappearance of a University of Virginia student, police are stressing that the search for the 18-year-old sophomore from northern Virginia remains in full force.
Authorities obtained a felony arrest warrant from a magistrate charging 32-year-old Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. with abduction with intent to defile. Police said Matthew was the last person seen with Hannah Graham, who disappeared on the morning of Sept. 13.
Charlottesville officials said Sept. 24th they didn’t anticipate any more updates in the case that day.
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said at a news conference that officers were looking for Matthew, a campus employee and longtime Charlottesville resident, who was last seen Sept. 20th when he stopped by the police station with his mother and uncle to ask for a lawyer.
Police say he sped away afterward, losing officers who had him under surveillance and prompting authorities to issue two arrest warrants for reckless driving.
Longo said police, who have searched Matthew’s car once and his apartment twice, decided they had probable cause to charge him in Graham’s disappearance.
He declined to say what new information police had, and he did not take questions. However, he walked back to the podium when a reporter asked whether police were still looking for Graham, an alpine skier and alto saxophone player, according to family members and police.
“We absolutely are continuing our search for Hannah, even as we speak, and we will continue our search for Hannah,” he said.
Meanwhile, a vigil was scheduled the night of Sept. 24th at Graham’s alma mater, West Potomac High School in northern Virginia.
According to police, Graham met friends at a restaurant for dinner on Sept. 12 before stopping by two parties at off-campus housing units. The sophomore left the second party alone, police have said, and sent a text message to a friend saying she was lost.
Surveillance videos showed her walking, and at some points running, past a pub and a service station and then onto the Downtown Mall, a seven-block pedestrian strip lined with shops and restaurants where police believe she entered a bar with Matthew.
Matthew has been employed at the University of Virginia Medical Center since Aug. 12, 2012, as a patient technician in the operating room, the university said.
He was enrolled at Liberty University in Lynchburg from 2000 to 2002, said officials with the school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Matthew also was listed on Liberty’s football roster for as a defensive lineman for the 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons, according Liberty’s athletics website.
The Covenant School, a private Christian pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school in Charlottesville, said Matthew was a part-time volunteer with the football team beginning in August 2014 but is no longer associated with the school.
In a letter to parents, Covenant’s headmaster said Matthew had interviews with the athletic director and head football coach, and passed its normal background and reference checks.
Online court records show Matthew was convicted of trespassing in 2010 but provide no details about the incident. Details also were unavailable for two other charges of assault and attempted grand larceny relating to a 2009 incident that were not prosecuted. Matthew also has several traffic infractions, records show.
Matthew had a taxi permit from 2007 through 2010, according to Pam Goheen with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Police Capt. Gary Pleasants said officers took several items of clothing during their second search of Matthew’s apartment, but he would not give details.
As of Sept. 23d, the state lab was still analyzing evidence it received from Charlottesville police, including nearly two dozen items and eight “known samples that we would use for comparison purposes,” said Jeffrey Ban, Director of the Department of Forensic Science’s Central Laboratory in Richmond.
Authorities on Sept. 23d released an updated wanted poster reflecting the new charge against Matthew. It says the 6-foot-2, 270-pound man was last reported driving his sister’s 1997 light blue Nissan Sentra, and notes that he is said to have contacts in Virginia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
Graham’s disappearance sent fear through the quiet college town of Charlottesville. University President Teresa Sullivan said in a written statement that local and campus police have increased patrols, and the university has expanded the hours of a program that provides late-night van transportation for students.
Students have said they’ve begun walking in pairs at night and are paying closer attention to their surroundings.