Where's Hannah Graham? Police arrest suspect in case of missing student

Charlottesville police have charged Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. with abduction with intent to defile Hannah Graham, a University of Virginia sophomore who went missing Sept. 13. Matthew had been employed at the university medical center.

By all appearances, the man arrested Wednesday in connection with the disappearance of a University of Virginia student has led a fairly ordinary life: He worked at a hospital, helped coach youth football for a time and attended a Christian university.

Now, however, 32-year-old Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. is a central figure in a case that has roiled the college town of Charlottesville. Police have charged him with abduction with intent to defile Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore who went missing on Sept. 13.

Charlottesville Police Police Chief Timothy Longo told a news conference Wednesday night that Matthew had been captured and was in custody in Galveston, Texas. He said authorities did not know why Matthew was in Texas. He said they are now working on getting him extradited to Virginia.

Longo added that police were still searching for Graham.

"This case is nowhere near over," Longo said. "We have a person in custody but there's a long road ahead of us."

Police believe Matthew was the last person seen with Graham, and obtained a felony warrant for his arrest late Tuesday. Matthew had sped away from a police station Saturday after coming with family members to ask for a lawyer. It's not clear whether the longtime area resident knew Graham, who was last seen in an area lined with shops and restaurants where police believe she went into a bar with him.

The case has spread fear through the quiet community about 70 miles west of Richmond. Authorities have increased patrols and a late-night transportation program for students, who also have begun walking in pairs at night and are paying closer attention to their surroundings.

While police continued searching for Graham and struggled to make sense of what led to her disappearance, a vigil was scheduled Wednesday evening at her alma mater, West Potomac High School in northern Virginia. Graham was an alpine skier and alto saxophone player who had earned straight A's six years in a row, according to family members and police.

According to police, Graham met friends at a restaurant for dinner on Sept. 12 before stopping by two parties at off-campus housing units. She 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 where police believe she entered a bar with Matthew.

The university said he's been employed at the University of Virginia Medical Center since Aug. 12, 2012, as a patient technician in the operating room.

The charges against the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Matthew surprised Dave Hansen, who first met him about 11 years ago when Hansen served as an assistant pastor at an area church.

"I always thought he was a gentle giant, just a nice guy," Hansen said. "He seemed genuine with his faith and spirituality. ... I don't see him doing this at all, but that's usually the case, I guess."

Hansen said he's only kept up with Matthew through Facebook, but ran into him at the university's medical center within the last year. He said the soft-spoken Matthew greeted him in an elevator with a high-five.

Matthew attended Liberty University from 2000 to 2002, said officials with the Lynchburg school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. The school's athletics website listed him as a defensive lineman on the football team.

More recently he also served as a part-time volunteer for the football team at The Covenant School, a private Christian pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school in Charlottesville. Officials said his involvement with the school began last month following interviews with the athletic director and head football coach, as well as normal background and reference checks.

After Matthew was named a person of interest in Graham's disappearance, school officials said in a letter that he will "no longer be working with our football program while this matter is being clarified and resolved."

While Matthew has had past brushes with the law, the details of those cases are not clear.

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, who had a taxi permit from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles from 2007 through 2010, also has several traffic infractions, records show.

The latest revelations came late Tuesday, when police, who have searched Matthew's car once and his apartment twice, decided they had probable cause to charge him in the disappearance. Longo declined to say what new information police had, but authorities sent several items, including clothing, to a state forensics lab for testing.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.