Suspect in Hannah Graham's death may face death penalty

By Amy R. Connolly  |  May 6, 2015 at 12:17 PM
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., May 6 (UPI) -- The man accused in the abduction and death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham was charged with capital murder and may face the death penalty, the prosecutor said.

Jesse Matthew Jr., 33, was served with an indictment Tuesday after a grand jury heard new evidence in the Sept. 12 disappearance and subsequent death of Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore. Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford would not reveal the details of the new evidence that led to the new charge, but said she will seek the death penalty if the case goes to trial. Matthew was previously charged with first-degree murder with a possible life sentence.

"These are never easy decisions," Lunsford said. "If I didn't believe that this case were worthy of a capital charge, if I didn't believe that Mr. Matthew were someone that would be appropriate for this ultimate penalty, then we wouldn't be standing here having this conversation."

Graham was last seen on surveillance video in downtown Charlottesville walking with a man police think is Matthew. Police said they had no reason to believe Matthew and Graham knew each other before that night.

In the weeks that followed her disappearance, teams search for Graham, asking property owners to check their land. Her remains were found in a rural part of the county on Oct. 18. Matthew was arrested in September in Texas and extradited to Virginia on a charge of abduction with intent to defile.

Matthew's DNA has been linked to a 2005 sexual assault case and the 2009 death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. He is scheduled to stand trial in the sexual assault case in June. He has not been charged in Harrington's death.

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