Hannah Graham suspect linked to murdered Va. student Morgan Harrington: report

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (PIX11) – The principal suspect in the disappearance of Virginia teen Hannah Graham has been linked by forensic evidence to the murder of another Virginia student.

Sources close to the investigation confirmed exclusively to WTVR that forensic evidence belonging to Jesse L. Matthew Jr., a 32-year-old hospital worker, matched evidence found during the investigation of 20-year-old Morgan Harrington’s abduction and murder.  Harrington disappeared after leaving a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones arena in 2009, her body was discovered three months later on nearby farmland.

Police would specify the nature of the forensic evidence, or say how they believe it connects him to Harrington’s death.

“For the past five years, the Virginia State Police has been aggressively pursuing the investigation into the disappearance and death of 20-year-old Morgan D. Harrington of Roanoke, Va,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told the station in an email. “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.”

Sources say forensic evidence has linked the suspect in the Hannah Graham disappearance case to a 2009 murder of another Virginia student. (WTVR)

Sources say forensic evidence has linked the suspect in the Hannah Graham disappearance case to a 2009 murder of another Virginia student during which the  FBI sketch above was distributed. (WTVR)

The FBI released the sketch pictured above after investigators linked the Harrington crime scene to a 2005 sex assault in Fairfax, Virginia.

Matthew Jr. was arrested in Galveston, Texas, last week  and returned to Virginia where he is held on charges of intent to defile.  Police say he was the last person seen with Graham, who left a downtown Charlottesville pub early Sept. 13 and has not been seen since.  According to her friends, the University of Virginia student sent a text message saying that she was lost, and surveillance footage recorded a white man following her.

That man, police say, told officers that he had walked behind her to make sure she was okay, as she appeared distressed.  He also told detectives that he saw a black man walk up to Graham and put his arm around her, but because she didn’t appear to react he assumed they knew each other.  When he left they were standing together talking, he recalled.

Police began monitoring Matthew Jr.’s movements and searched his car and apartment after reviewing surveillance video and speaking with witnesses.  On Sept. 20, Matthew Jr. fled the state, police say.

Four days later, Virginia State police were contacted by Texas authorities after they spotted a suspicious man camping on a Gilchrest beach and found he was wanted in Virginia after checking his license plate number.