CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — DNA evidence links Jesse Matthew, a suspect in this month's disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, to the death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who disappeared in 2009, a law enforcement source told CNN Monday.
Virginia State Police had said earlier that the two cases were connected by a "forensic link" but did not elaborate.
"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. 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.
Anyone with new information concerning the Harrington investigation is encouraged to contact the Virginia State Police at 434-352-3467 or the Jefferson Area Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.
Meanwhile, state police continues to dedicate the necessary resources to assist the Charlottesville Police Department through the course of its investigation and with their efforts to locate Hannah Graham. In fact, right now, the public’s focus needs to remain on helping Charlottesville Police locate and bring Hannah Graham home."
Almost from the start, speculation was raised about the possibility of a connection between Graham's disappearance and Harrington's death.
"Certainly the question has arisen. It's certainly a legitimate question," Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo told reporters last week.
In a statement, James L. Camblos III, Matthew's lawyer, said he met with his client for 2½ hours Monday but declined further comment.
"Because everything is under seal, I have not been provided with any evidence that links him to either of these cases," he said, referring to Graham and Harrington.
Matthew will have a bond hearing on Thursday.
According to WTVR, their sources would not indicate what Matthew may or may not have done with Harrington, however the sources indicated that the forensic evidence match showed Harrington had some sort of contact with Matthew the night she disappeared outside John Paul Jones arena on October 17, 2009. Her remains were found in January 2010 on an Albemarle County farm.
“We worked five years to get to this point, so we are relieved,” Morgan Harrington’s mother Gil said. Harrington added it was now time for her to take a step back and let investigators do their job and find Hannah.
“We are heartbroken for her family. We know what they’re going through,” Harrington told WTVR.com in the days after Graham disappeared. “Police need information. They need to process tips. Please reach out to police and do not be the filter. Even if you think it does not make sense, let police be the filter.”
Two years after Morgan Harrington’s remains were found, the FBI released a sketch of the man they said had contact with the Virginia Tech student. The sketch was released after investigators found forensic evidence that linked a 2005 sex assault in Fairfax to Harrington’s disappearance.
Where is Hannah?
Hannah Graham was officially reported missing on September 14, though she was last seen the early hours of September 13.
Jesse Matthew’s car and apartment were searched five days later, on September 19, after police reviewed video and spoke with witnesses. The next day Matthew was reported to have sped away from the overt surveillance Virginia State Police had on him.
He was next named a suspect, after police received more forensic evidence.
On September 24, police in Texas were alerted to a suspicious man camping on the beach in Gilchrist on the Bolivar Peninsula, approximately 1,300 miles from Charlottesville. When they ran his license plate number around 3:30 p.m., they found out he was wanted in Virginia.
Matthew was charged with giving false information to a police officer. A federal law enforcement source confirmed a phone call made from a borrowed cell phone in Louisiana, to Virginia, is how police first discovered Jesse Matthew was out of the state and on the run.
Matthew was flown back to Virginia on September 26 and taken to Albemarle County Jail. He is expected to make an initial court appearance on Thursday where he will face an abduction with intent defile charge.
Anyone with information regarding Graham’s whereabouts should call (434) 295-3851 or 1-800-THE-LOST.