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Accused killer of Virginia college women gets 4 life terms in plea deal to avoid death row

“It is difficult for us to understand how a gentle soul transformed into this individual,” Reverend Louie Carr said of the accused killer.
By Doug G. Ware   |   March 2, 2016 at 7:24 PM

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., March 2 (UPI) -- A convicted rapist pleaded guilty Wednesday in the deaths of two female Virginia college students to avoid a death sentence and secure life imprisonment instead.

Jesse Matthew, Jr., made the plea Wednesday on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abduction with the intent to defile in the deaths of Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham.

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Harrington, 20, disappeared after stepping outside of a Virginia Tech venue during a musical concert in 2009. Graham, 18, vanished after attending parties off campus at the University of Virginia in 2014.

Matthew, 34, became a person of interest in Graham's disappearance and was ultimately arrested in Texas. His arrest allowed police to take a DNA sample, which then linked him to the Harrington case.

At Wednesday's hearing, Matthew changed his plea to 'guilty' as part of a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors did not seek the death penalty. The judge in the case subsequently gave Matthew four consecutive life sentences.

"He is very sorry and he loves his family very much," Matthew's attorney said during the hearing.

"It is difficult for us to understand how a gentle soul transformed into this individual," Reverend Louie Carr said on behalf of the Matthew family. "We are so very sorry for what has been done and what you have been through."

For Matthew, Wednesday's sentence simply adds time on top of time. He was already serving three life terms for sexually assaulting another woman in Virginia in an unrelated case a decade ago.

"He dumped our beautiful girl's body like a bag of trash," Graham's mother, Susan, said during Wednesday's hearing.

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