CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Searchers found human remains on Saturday that could be those of a University of Virginia sophomore who has been missing since Sept. 13, police said.
Further forensic tests are needed to confirm whether the remains are those of Hannah Graham, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo told a news conference. The remains were found on an abandoned property in southern Albemarle County by a search team from the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office, Longo said.
Thousands of volunteers had searched for the 18-year-old Graham in the weeks since her disappearance.
Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., 32, has been charged with abduction with intent to defile Graham.
A week after Graham went missing, Longo publicly described Matthew in detail without naming him, saying investigators wanted to talk to the “person of interest” and had searched his apartment because he was the last person to see her.
Matthew then showed up at police headquarters, asked for a lawyer, and then sped away, according to a police account. His exit prompted a warrant for “reckless driving,” a charge that Longo cited as he named the suspect and appealed for information from anyone who saw him with Graham the night she disappeared.
Matthew was arrested a few days later in Galveston, Texas.
While Matthew was a fugitive in Texas, Virginia police added a charge of abduction with intent to defile, a violent felony that under Virginia law compels suspects to submit to DNA testing.
Very quickly thereafter, Virginia State Police announced a “forensic link” to the 2009 killing of Morgan Harrington, whose body was found in a hayfield three months after she vanished. That case, in turn, has been linked by DNA evidence since 2012 to the rape of a woman in Fairfax, Virginia, who survived after a passer-by startled her attacker, the FBI has said.
Following his arrest, Christopher Newport University released a statement noting that Matthew was named in a police file involving a Sept. 7, 2003 sexual assault on the Newport News campus. Matthew was a student there from January 2003 through Oct. 15, 2003.
Matthew had transferred to CNU after three years at Liberty University, where he also was briefly on the football team.
When he was at Liberty University, he was accused of raping a student on campus. That charge was dropped when the person declined to move forward with prosecution, Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Doucette said.