Hannah Graham suspect Jesse Matthew under investigation for 2009 murder

The missing girls of Charlottesville

WASHINGTON, September 29, 2014 — Virginia State Police announced that Jesse L. Matthew Jr., the suspect in the disappearance of Hannah Graham, is now under investigation for the 2009 abduction and murder of Morgan Harrington.

Earlier, police said the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew, Jr. has provided a “significant break” in the investigation into the death and disappearance of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who went missing during a concert in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The statement issued by Virginia State Police public relations director read, “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. There is a still a great deal of work to be done in regards to this investigation and we appreciate the public’s patience as we move forward.”

The specifics of the “link” have not yet been publicly released.

Although the Harrington family released to the press that the connection was discovered during the search of the suspect’s home and car.

The latest news came after Jesse Matthew was detained in Galveston, Texas and was extradited to Virginia on charges in the disappearance of Hannah Graham.

Police reported during a press conference that evidence taken from Jesse Matthew’s home and car will also be compared to any evidence from additional missing women cases.

Matthew was questioned in 2002 in connection to a sexual assault case at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, but was never charged. Lynchburg police reported that Matthew said the encounter was consensual and there were no witnesses to back up the woman’s claim. The student decided not to pursue the case.

READ ALSO: Examining the night Hannah Graham disappeared; $100,000 reward offered

On October 17, 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20 year old Virginia Tech student, went to Charlottesville with friends to attend a Metallica concert.

During the concert, Harrington somehow found herself outside of the concert venue without her ticket or car keys when going to the restroom.

Harrington explained to her friends during a phone call around 8:45 p.m. she was unable to get back in to the concert due to the arena’s policy and they should not worry about her, as she would find her own way home.

Morgan encountered three members of the UVA men’s basketball team in the parking lot. Harrington asked them for a ride, but they declined as they had somewhere else they were expected that evening. The basketball players have been extensively questioned and ruled out as suspects.

A UVA student and her father reported seeing Harrington around 9:30 p.m. hitchhiking, presumably attempting to make her way across the 150 miles back to Blacksburg, Virginia and Virginia Tech. When the father passed the same location a few moments later after dropping his daughter at her dorm, the hitchhiker was gone.

On January 26, 2010, the remains of Morgan Harrington were discovered in a remote field, ten miles from the John Paul Jones Arena.

Her parents told the media their daughter had been raped and died a violent death.

The rape sketch
The rape sketch

There has never been any arrest for the death of Morgan Harrington, but in 2011 it was confirmed the person who killed her was linked to a 2005 rape in Fairfax, Virginia by DNA. The rape victim survived and worked with a police artist on a composite sketch. She described her attacker as an average sized African American man between the ages of 25 and 35.

Four other girls of a similar age to Graham and Harrington have also gone missing in Charlottesville under suspicious circumstances over the last five years.

READ ALSO: Update: Hannah Graham: Five missing in Charlottesville in five years

Samantha Ann Clarke

The disappearance of Samantha Clarke has not received the same attention as the cases of Harrington or Graham, although there are similarities between the cases.

On September 13, 2010, 19-year-old Clarke told her then 14-year-old brother she was going out and would be back, but Samantha Clarke never came back.

Clarke left the house without taking any personal items or identification.

Clarke and her brother, Hunter, were home alone that night at their home in Orange County, about 40 minutes northeast from the University of Virginia, while their mother worked the night shift.

Clarke’s mother received two phone calls around 12:30 a.m. from the home number but their mother, Barbara Tinder was not allowed to use the phone until a break at 1:30 a.m. When she called, Hunter answered and reported he had not made the phone calls.

The family of Clarke believe that she went to meet some new “friends” who they had never met.

Orange County police say all clues in this case led to Greene County, an area 30 minutes north of Virginia’s flagship University, but Samantha Clarke is still missing.

Just this September, almost exactly four years after Clarke disappeared, police divers spent days in a lake in Greene County searching for the missing teen. Once again, they came up empty handed.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Samantha Clarke case is her friendship with Randy Taylor, a man who plays a central role in another young woman’s disappearance.

Alexis Murphy

On August 3, 2013, 17-year-old Alexis Murphy left her home in Shipman, Virginia and headed to Lynchburg to get her hair done.

Murphy was last seen at a gas station in Lovingston, Virginia, 30 minutes south of Charlottesville.

Surveillance video shows Randy Taylor holding the door to the gas station shop for Murphy. Taylor had been parked at the gas pump next to Murphy, although he did not buy any gas that day.

When walking out of the store, Murphy turned her head as though someone said something to her then approached Taylor’s SUV and spoke to him.

After the brief conversation, Taylor headed toward Charlottesville, followed by Murphy in her car.

The next night, Murphy’s car was spotted by another camera parked at a Charlottesville movie theatre. It is too dark for the camera to capture the driver.

Taylor is spotted at an Applebee’s Restaurant near the theatre 30 minutes later.

A torn fingernail, hair, fake eyelashes and blood on a tee shirt are found three days later and, according to police the DNA results, matches Alexis Murphy.

Taylor was found guilty of murder in the commission of an abduction and abduction with the intent to defile.

The judge sentenced Taylor to two life terms, but through his attorney, he insisted that there was a third man involved who actually did the killing. He said that for a sentence of 20 years, he would reveal the location of Murphy’s body.

The family of Alexis Murphy declined the offer saying that they would not bargain with a murderer.

DaShad Laquinn Smith

Smith is a transgender woman who has not been seen since November 20, 2012 when she was just 19-years-old.

Smith was last seen on the 500 block of west Main Street in Charlottesville, Virginia around 6:30 p.m.

Smith, who dressed as both a man and a woman, was supposed to meet up with a man at an Amtrak Station on November 20 but never showed up.

After a few days without contact and a missed Thanksgiving dinner, her family notified police.

Police have searched the Charlottesville area to include a landfill but no clues have been found.

Erik McFadden
Erik McFadden

Investigators would like to speak with Erik T. McFadden, who Smith was expected to meet the night she disappeared.

McFadden told police he had traveled to New York City the week Smith went missing and then stopped responding to calls.

He had attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and had just moved to Charlottesville in 2012.

The police are not clear about the relationship between McFadden and Smith, and McFadden has not been charged with a crime but is a person of interest in the case.

It is as if McFadden has also disappeared.

This case remains unsolved.

Hannah Graham

Now Hannah Graham has gone missing from the same area.

On September 23, an arrest warrant was issued for Jesse Matthew for abduction with the intent to defile, the same crime Taylor was charged with in the Murphy case.

Jesse Matthew
Jesse Matthew

Matthew has not been seen since he eluded police over the weekend after telling them he had bought Graham drinks but then they left separately the night she disappeared.

It is also worth noting that two sexual assaults took place in Charlottesville the weekend Graham went missing.

One involved another UVA female student and the other a Charlottesville resident. Both instances occurred in the areas Graham was last seen.

Police as well as volunteers are continuing their search for Graham and for any clues of the unsolved cases.

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  • Tom Turrise

    I think it’s time to exterminate this “pavement ape”.

  • Jack Ross

    The importance of the right to bear arms is becoming more and more clear.