Search for Missing UVA Student Continues
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville police have resumed the search for University of Virginia student Hannah Elizabeth Graham, who has been missing since early Saturday.
Graham, 18, is a second-year student at UVA who graduated from West Potomac High School last year. She's originally from the U.K. but her parents live in Alexandria in Fairfax County. They came to Charlottesville Tuesday as the search for their daughter intensified.
Police began searching for Graham Sunday when she was reported missing. Sunday, searchers used a bloodhound to try to track a scent but it turned up nothing. Monday, police searched the area of 14th and Wertland streets, the nearby railroad tracks, and a large area east of the university, but found no trace of Graham. The search resumed Tuesday morning with the assistance of the FBI, Virginia State Police, the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, which brought in teams with dogs to help. A command center has been set up at the Albemarle County Police Department.
The search shifted Tuesday due to surveillance footage that showed Graham in front of McGrady's Irish Pub the night she was last seen. More than 50 people searched, continuing to look in the area of 14th and Wertland streets, but also moving east along Preston Avenue, near McGrady's. At one point Tuesday morning, police cordoned off and searched the area of Roosevelt Brown Boulevard and King Street, near UVA Medical Center.
Police announced Tuesday afternoon they were adjusting their search area farther east after getting a report Graham was seen on surveillance video outside McGrady's at 12:46 a.m. Saturday. Police said the tape showed Graham was alone and appeared intoxicated. She was in the same clothes she was seen wearing in surveillance footage from inside her apartment building that night, and she had no visible injuries. She may have briefly spoken to someone outside the bar. Police say she walked in front of McGrady's for several minutes before heading east on Grady Avenue toward Preston Avenue. She did not go into McGrady's.
"We can see she's stumbling somewhat, but she does not look in distress just from what we can see. But it's difficult to tell a whole lot from the video," said Captain Gary Pleasants of the Charlottesville Police Department.
Tuesday evening, Virginia State Police used a helicopter to search over Charlottesville, following Graham's known steps from late Friday night and early Saturday morning, but nothing turned up.
Graham was reported missing on Sunday when friends and family realized they hadn't seen or heard from her since late Friday / early Saturday morning. Graham is described as approximately 5'11" tall with a skinny build, with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles. She was last seen wearing a black crop top with mesh cutouts.
According to Charlottesville police, Graham had been drinking heavily and was seen at 12:15 a.m. Saturday leaving a party on 14th Street. At 12:46 a.m., police saw her on the surveillance footage from McGrady's. Around 1:30 a.m., Graham talked with her friends via text messages but then her phone cut off and there were no more pings. Graham's text messages that night have been described as normal. Her last message said she was lost in the area of 14th and Wertland.
Police are looking at her phone records and computer for possible leads. There are multiple surveillance cameras in the search area and police have collected a number of videos, including one of Graham leaving her apartment complex on 15th Street (photo shown at right) and the one of her outside McGrady's, which police say they will not release.
Police want to hear from anyone who may have seen her or has any information as to where she may have been going. If you have information on this case, call the dedicated tip line: 434-295-3851 at the Charlottesville Police Department.
Students at UVA say, in addition to raising awareness on social media, they wanted to take action and physically help with the search. Student Meredith Berger, who knew Graham, called law enforcement in hopes of starting a student-led search. The search has since been called off because the FBI is involved and does not want investigators' search efforts to be compromised. But anyone who does wish to help look for Graham can contact the Blue Ridge Mountain Rescue Group.
Graham's family arrived in Charlottesville Tuesday as police continue to follow up on leads. They have released a statement, by way of UVA, saying in part, "Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends...We express our sincere gratitude to law enforcement and everyone who is involved in the search for Hannah." Read the full statement below.
Statement from Hannah Graham's family, sent by UVA:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Sept. 16, 2014 — Hannah Graham's family issued the following statement today regarding the disappearance of their daughter, a second-year student at the University of Virginia. Hannah has been missing since early Saturday morning, and law enforcement officials are actively searching for her. The family asks that the public and news media respect its privacy at this time.
“Since learning of Hannah's disappearance, we have been heartbroken and at the same time heartened by the outpouring of support and help we have received. We remain hopeful that Hannah will be found soon. We urge anyone with any information, however insignificant it may seem, to call a newly dedicated tip line at 434-295-3851 at the Charlottesville Police Department.
“Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends. She is highly responsible and organized. She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends. She loves the University of Virginia, and all summer she was looking forward to the start of the new school year. UVA is her intellectual home, a place that stimulates her thinking on a broad variety of topics. Socially, she has found kinship and passion with her fellow members of the Ski Team.
“We express our sincere gratitude to law enforcement and everyone who is involved in the search for Hannah. We also thank the University for the full attention they are devoting to the situation. The kindness and support of so many – her friends at UVA, particularly her friends on the Ski Team, her friends from high school, our neighbors, and the larger community – mean so much to us at this difficult time.
“Please join us in our fervent wish for Hannah's safe return home. Once again, if you have any information at all, however insignificant it may seem, please call 434-295-3851.”
John, Susan, and James Graham