Suspect in missing Virginia student linked to a 2009 case: TV

By Ian Simpson

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - The man suspected in the disappearance of a University of Virginia student earlier this month has been linked by forensic evidence to another student who went missing in 2009 and was later found dead, a television station reported on Monday.

Forensic evidence belonging to Jesse Matthew Jr., who has been charged in the disappearance of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham, 18, matched evidence collected during the investigation into the 2009 disappearance of a Virginia Tech student, CBS affiliate WTVR reported, quoting sources close to the investigation.

Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, disappeared in October 2009. Her remains were found in January 2010 on a farm in Albemarle County, Virginia.

Police in Charlottesville, Virginia, have charged Matthew, 32, in the disappearance of Graham, who was last seen on Sept. 13 with Matthew. The case has shaken the college town in central Virginia and drawn national attention.

The station said the sources did not detail the forensic evidence, but said it showed that Harrington had contact with Matthew the night she disappeared outside the University of Virginia's basketball arena in Charlottesville in October 2009.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Matthew's arrest last week "provided a significant break in this (Harrington's) case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue."

The Richmond Times-Dispatch quoted an unnamed law enforcement source familiar with the investigation as saying that DNA evidence links the two cases.

WTVR said that after Harrington’s body was discovered, investigators found forensic evidence that linked a 2005 sex assault in Fairfax, Virginia, to Harrington’s disappearance.

Police last week charged Matthew, of Charlottesville, with abduction and intent to defile after he was arrested outside Galveston, Texas. He was returned to Charlottesville on Friday and is being held without bond pending a court hearing on Thursday.

Matthew was a main suspect in a 2002 campus rape investigation while attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Mike Doucette, Lynchburg Commonwealth's attorney, said last week.The woman told authorities she had not consented to sex, but decided not to pursue the case. No charges were filed against Matthew, he said. Matthew was a student at Liberty University from 2000 to 2002.

Charlottesville General District Court documents show that Matthew had previous arrests and had convictions for public intoxication and indecent exposure.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and John Clarke in Washington; Additional reporting by Gary Robertson in Richmond; Editing by Leslie Adler)