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Jesse Matthew Pleads Guilty to Murders of Harrington and Graham

Posted: Updated: Mar 16, 2016 11:19 AM
Jesse Matthew leaving Albemarle Circuit Court after pleading guilty Jesse Matthew leaving Albemarle Circuit Court after pleading guilty
Morgan Harrington (left) and Hannah Graham (right) Morgan Harrington (left) and Hannah Graham (right)
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

An Albemarle County judge has handed down four life sentences to Jesse Matthew.

Matthew appeared in Albemarle Circuit Court around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, where he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile in both the Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham cases.

Matthew admitted to abducting and murdering 18-year-old Graham, a University of Virginia student, back in September of 2014. The prosecution was prepared to present a jury with evidence of Matthew going to several restaurants, ordering drinks and engaging in physically inappropriate behavior with various women just before witnesses say they saw him with Graham.

Witnesses told police they saw the two together on the night she disappeared from the Downtown Mall. Her remains were found in a wooded area behind a house on Old Lynchburg Road on October 18, 2014. According to court documents, Graham's left nasal bone had piece of a bone that was broken away, and that she likely died by strangulation or suffocation. It appeared the UVA student fought back, as witnesses told investigators that Matthew had a swollen jaw at work immediately after the time she was murdered

Matthew also killed 20-year-old Harrington, who had disappeared after attending a concert in Charlottesville on October 17, 2009. Investigators determined that Harrington was picked up by Matthew in his taxi van that night. Investigators gathered blood, hair, and other pieces of forensic evidence to connect Matthew to Harrington. 

The Virginia Tech student's remains were found in January 2010 on an Albemarle County farm. Court documents reveal Harrington had multiple fractures at or near the time of her death, including an "incise fracture" on her skull.

Through his attorney, Matthew told the court he was sorry and loves his family.

In exchange for pleading guilty, Matthew received four consecutive life sentences, one for each charge. He is already serving three life sentences for raping and almost killing a woman in Fairfax.

Under the plea agreement terms, Matthew gives up his right to appeal and would not be eligible for geriatric release.

It should be noted that this is not an Alford plea, and as such Matthew is taking responsibility for the crimes - this was an important point for the families involved.

Family members read emotional victim impact statements to the court, just a few feet from Matthew.

Judge Cheryl Higgins accepted the plea agreement at 2 p.m., dropping the charge of reckless driving and capital murder against Matthew. He was formally sentenced at 2:15 p.m.

""It serves the interest of justice by providing a joint resolution, consistent with the wishes of the Graham and Harrington families that avoids the additional revictimization associated with highly public trial," said Albemarle Co. Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci.

"We are happy that both sides were able to reach a resolution that everyone can live with and look forward to the healing that will happen in the future," said Doug Ramseur, Matthew's defense attorney.

The families of the victims briefly spoke to the media following court proceedings. They thanked authorities, as well as the community.

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