Prosecutors Strategic in Bringing Charges Against Jesse Matthew
October 23, 2014
It's been five days since human remains were found during a search for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham off Old Lynchburg Road. As Albemarle County police wait for an official identification from the medical examiner in Richmond, investigators from Fairfax County are proceeding with their case against the lead suspect in her disappearance, Jesse Matthew.
On Monday, the 32-year-old Charlottesville man was indicted on attempted capital murder and abduction charges in Fairfax County, relating to a 2005 sexual assault. Matthew was already behind bars, charged with abduction with the intent to defile in the Hannah Graham case. Investigators have also forensically linked Matthew to Morgan Harrington's disappearance in 2009, but no charges have been filed in that case. While both Harrington and Graham's cases are ongoing, a judge in Fairfax issued a bench warrant Thursday for Matthew to appear in court to face the attempted capital murder charge.
Charlottesville defense attorney Scott Goodman said Fairfax may have the strongest case against Matthew at this juncture. "I'm sure the prosecutor in Charlottesville would be happy for Fairfax to go first. If Fairfax can get a life sentence or two, or maybe even three, since there are three charges with life sentences possible, that would take some of the heat, some of the pressure off Albemarle and Charlottesville to move quickly." According to the indictment, there is DNA linking Matthew to the Fairfax attack and a witness willing to testify.
According to Charlottesville police, Hannah Graham was last seen by eyewitnesses leaving the Downtown Mall with Matthew in the early hours of September 13. Search warrants related to the investigation have been sealed, but police searched Matthew's car and Hessian Hills apartment in the days following her disappearance. Initially named a person of interest in Graham's case, Matthew fled to Galveston, TX before being apprehended by a sheriff's deputy and extradited back to Charlottesville to face the abduction charge.
"The Charlottesville case involving Hannah Graham is a case that is going to rely almost completely on circumstantial evidence," Goodman said. "That's going to take a long time to develop. "It includes a lot of lab work, forensics... the Charlottesville case is still months, maybe even a year away from being tried."
Matthew is currently being held at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail. He could be transported to Fairfax to face a judge, or due to security concerns, the court could hold the proceedings over a video conference.
"If security decides it's not worth it to take the risk to put this individual in the car and driving him to Fairfax with all the problems that could accompany that...people in custody can appear in a courtroom by video which is a more secure way to do it," said Goodman.
Matthew's first court appearance in Fairfax is expected to be brief. The judge will notify Matthew of the three felony charges against him and ask if he needs a court-appointed attorney.
Copyright © 2014 Gray MidAmerica TV Interactive Media, LLC.