(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — The charges against the man accused of kidnapping University of Virginia student Hannah Graham have been upgraded to include first-degree murder in the death of the 18-year-old.
Jesse Matthew Jr. was arrested in September and charged with abduction with intent to defile after the disappearance of the student after a night of partying. The first-degree murder charge and the abduction with intent to defile each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years to life.
Graham’s skeletal remains were found in October in a field about 10 miles away from Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was last seen on the night of Sept. 13.
The Ablemarle County Police are handling the Graham case because that was the jurisdiction where her body was found.
“These indictments signal the beginning of the next phase in what has been an incredibly difficult process,” Albemarle County Commonwealth’s attorney Denise Lunsford said at a news conference Tuesday morning.
She said the prosecution actively decided to charge Matthew, now 33, with first-degree murder rather than capital murder but she would not elaborate on that decision process.
Matthew also faces two reckless driving charges that stemmed from the initial investigation into Graham’s disappearance.
Lunsford said that while investigators have publicly stated that they have found a forensic link between the Graham case and the 2009 disappearance and murder of Morgan Harrington, Matthew does not face any charges in connection to that case at this time.
“Each investigation takes its own course,” she said.
Matthew is next scheduled to appear via video link for a hearing Friday in Fairfax City, in connection to a different 2005 attempted sexual assault. Following the discovery of Harrington’s body in 2010, investigators were able to connect her case to the 2005 one.
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