Clock Ticks for Fairfax to Prosecute Jesse Matthew

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Jesse Matthew Jesse Matthew
Hannah Graham Hannah Graham

The clock is ticking for Fairfax to take Jesse Matthew to trial on indictments stemming from a 2005 sexual assault.

Right now, the prime suspect in the Hannah Graham case is facing charges in three locations. Fairfax, Charlottesville and Albemarle County all have charged Matthew since September, and Fairfax indicted him. That means Fairfax has five months to get Matthew to trial.

NBC29 legal analyst Lloyd Snook says when an indictment is obtained, the legal clock begins to run. Matthew is facing attempted capital murder, abduction with the intent to defile, and sexual penetration with an object against the victim's will charges in Fairfax, abduction with intent to defile in Charlottesville, and two reckless driving charges in Albemarle. 

He's charged with the disappearance of Graham, a UVA student last seen on Charlottesville's downtown mall September 13, 2014, and in relation to a sexual assault that occurred in 2005 in Fairfax. The reckless driving charges were filed just before the abduction charge.

In Virginia, no single type of charge takes precedence over another.

"So right now unless that trial starts sometime in March, unless it starts by then, Fairfax may be out of luck. I think they move to the head of the line,” Snook said.

Both sides can agree to an extension, allowing prosecutors more time to get their cases together. If more charges are brought forth, individual prosecutors can negotiate among themselves about who will go first.

But many cases like this one can end in a plea agreement to prevent multiple long trials.

In light of Matthew's charges, another jurisdiction is looking into their missing person cases. Newport News police are reviewing cases that occurred while Matthew was attending college at Christopher Newport University. Autumn Day, 24, disappeared July 24, 2003 and, less than two months later, 31-year-old Sophia Rivera vanished. The chief of police says Matthew's presence during that time is the only link between the cases right now.

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