Missing University of Virginia student case provides lead in 2009 murder

The announcement of the new lead in the 2009 Morgan Harrington case came as authorities continue to search for British-born Hannah Graham, 18, who disappeared Sept. 13.

Virginia State Police/AP/File
Missing Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington of Roanoke County, Va., is shown. Police say the investigation into the case of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham has turned up a lead in Harrington's 2009 disappearance and death. A statement Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, from state police said, 'Last week, the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville, Va., provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue.'

The investigation into the case of a missing student has provided a "significant break" in the unsolved 2009 death of another young woman who disappeared from the University of Virginia campus, state police said Monday.

The announcement of the new lead in Morgan Harrington's case came as authorities continue to search for British-born Hannah Graham, 18, who disappeared Sept. 13.

"For the past five years, the Virginia State Police has been aggressively pursuing the investigation into the disappearance and death of 20-year-old Morgan D. Harrington," state police said in a written statement. "Last week, the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville,Virginia, provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue."

The statement provided no specifics about the forensic evidence and said state police would have no further comment. Charlottesville police had searched Matthew's car and apartment, taking several items of clothing from the home.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch quoted an unnamed law enforcement source familiar with the investigation as saying that DNA evidence links the two cases.

CBS affiliate WTVR said that after Harrington's body was discovered, investigators found forensic evidence that linked a 2005 sex assault in Fairfax, Virginia, to Harrington's disappearance.

Matthew's attorney, James Camblos, did not immediately respond to a telephone message.

Harrington, a student at Virginia Tech, disappeared after leaving the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena during a Metallica concert on Oct. 17, 2009. Her remains were found in January 2010 in a hayfield in Albemarle County.

Police have said they searched that location for Graham, who was reported missing a day after she was captured by surveillance videos as she walked unaccompanied in Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. Police have identified Matthew, a hospital worker, as the last person to be seen with Graham early on the morning of Sept. 13.

Matthew was a main suspect in a 2002 campus rape investigation while attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Mike Doucette, Lynchburg Commonwealth's attorney, said last week.

The woman told authorities she had not consented to sex, but decided not to pursue the case. No charges were filed against Matthew, he said. Matthew was a student at Liberty University from 2000 to 2002.

Charlottesville General District Court documents show that Matthew had previous arrests and had convictions for public intoxication and indecent exposure.

Matthew was returned from Texas late Friday after he was found on a beach near Galveston, Texas. He is being held without bond at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Jail.

Matthew is expected to make his first court appearance on Thursday to face a charge of abduction with intent to defile.

This report contains additional material from Reuters.

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