Jesse Matthew Arraigned in Morgan Harrington Case
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The man already facing capital murder charges in connection with the death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham was arraigned Wednesday on charges of abducting and killing Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. is facing first-degree murder and abduction with the intent to defile charges in the death of Morgan Harrington.
Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford said Tuesday that a grand jury indicted 33-year-old Matthew in the death of 20-year-old Morgan Harrington, who disappeared after attending an October 17, 2009, Metallica concert in Charlottesville. Her remains were found in January 2010 on an Albemarle County farm.
Matthew's arraignment hearing was held Wednesday afternoon in Albemarle County Circuit Court. The hearing, officiated by Judge Paul Peatross, was to advise him of the charges and deal with his legal representation.
Matthew will keep the same defense team he is using in the Hannah Graham case for the Morgan Harrington case. Matthew will be back in court on September 30 at 2 p.m. for a control date to see where both sides are and if a trial date can be set.
Commonwealth's attorney Denise Lunsford says she will not seek the death penalty even though it is on the table in the Graham case. She said they don't plan to upgrade the first-degree murder charge and won't combine the cases. "The cases - all I can say about that is they are completely separate cases, completely separate facts, and that's what the facts led to in this case."
Morgan’s parents, Dan and Gil Harrington, were in court for the hearing in Albemarle Circuit Court and sat just feet away from Matthew. Dan Harrington says this hearing is different for them because prosecutors have officially charged Matthew with first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile in connection with Morgan’s death. "It's a different feeling seeing Jesse now that he's charged for her death," he stated.
"He killed our daughter and I don't want to be separated. I want him to know that we're present, that we've been present for six years and we're going to be for the months to come, said Dan. Gil said she wanted Matthew to see her in court and know that she knows what he did to her daughter.
Gil has been coping with her daughter's death for six years but she says these charges are not something to celebrate. "It’s not bittersweet, it's odd, because how can you celebrate the fact that there's confirmation your daughter was murdered by someone? I mean, we've known that, but it's not a fact to be celebrated," she stated. She says this is a chance for Morgan’s voice to be heard and justice to be served.
On Tuesday Lunsford said the decision to charge Matthew had been made about a month ago. Authorities say that forensic evidence linked Matthew to Harrington but that they won't give details. Lunsford said they waited long enough to press charges.
"Really it was just a matter of looking at what we had over the course of the years, making a determination if now is the appropriate time, whether we should wait any longer for any reason, and ultimately determined the best time for this case was now," she said.
Matthew also is charged with capital murder in the September 2014 disappearance and death of 18-year-old Hannah Graham. In June, Matthew was convicted of sexually assaulting and attempting to kill a woman in Fairfax County. Sentencing is set for Oct. 2.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.