CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. >> The man authorities believe was the last person seen with a University of Virginia student before she disappeared has been charged with abduction, police said Tuesday night.
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said at a news conference that officers are looking for Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., 32, after obtaining a felony arrest warrant from a magistrate on a charge of abduction with intent to defile. They also continue to search for 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who went missing early the morning of Sept. 13.
Matthew was last seen Saturday when he stopped by the police station with his mother and uncle to ask for a lawyer. Police say he sped away afterward, losing officers who had him under surveillance and prompting authorities to issue two arrest warrants for reckless driving.
Longo said police, who have searched Matthew’s car once and his apartment twice, decided they had probable cause to charge him in Graham’s disappearance. He declined to say what new information police had, and he did not take questions.
Matthew has been employed at the University of Virginia Medical Center since Aug. 12, 2012, as a patient technician in the operating room, university spokesman McGregor McCance said.
Online court records show Matthew was convicted of trespassing in 2010 but provide no details about the incident. Details also were unavailable for two other charges of assault and attempted grand larceny relating to a 2009 incident that were not prosecuted. Matthew also has several traffic infractions, records show.
Matthew had a taxi permit from 2007 through 2010, according to Pam Goheen with Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Police Capt. Gary Pleasants said Tuesday that officers took several items of clothing during their second search of Matthew’s apartment, but he would not give details or elaborate on the search.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the state lab was still analyzing evidence it has received from Charlottesville police, including nearly two dozen items and eight “known samples that we would use for comparison purposes,” said Jeffrey Ban, director of the Department of Forensic Science’s Central Laboratory in Richmond.
Ban said that the department has expedited the case and hoped to provide authorities with results in the “very near future.” But he noted the lab could spend hours or even a whole day on a single piece of evidence that may have multiple stains or hairs on it. He also said it is standard procedure to test any samples against those in their database, including those from other missing persons cases in the central Virginia area.
Authorities on Tuesday released an updated wanted poster reflecting the new charge against Matthew. It says the 6-foot-2, 270-pound man was last reported driving his sister’s 1997 light blue Nissan Sentra, and notes that he is said to have contacts in Virginia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
According to police, Graham met friends at a restaurant for dinner on Sept. 12 before stopping by two parties at off-campus housing units. The sophomore from northern Virginia left the second party alone, police have said, and sent a text message to a friend saying she was lost.
Surveillance videos showed her walking, and at some points running, past a pub and a service station and then onto the Downtown Mall, a seven-block pedestrian strip lined with shops and restaurants where police believe she entered a bar with Matthew.
According to family members and police, Graham is an alpine skier and plays the alto saxophone. Organizers of a candlelight vigil last week at the university handed out her favorite candy, Starburst. Longo said he learned from visiting with Graham’s parents that the graduate of West Potomac High School earned straight A’s six years in a row.
Graham’s disappearance has sent a ripple of fear through the quiet college town of Charlottesville. University president Teresa Sullivan said in a written statement Tuesday that local and campus police have increased patrols, and the university has expanded the hours of a program that provides late-night van transportation for students.
Students have said they’ve begun walking in pairs at night and are paying closer attention to their surroundings.