Killer Of UVA Student Heather Graham Could Face Death Penalty

Killer Of UVA Student Heather Graham Could Face Death Penalty
UVA grounds in snow Karen Blaha / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

On Tuesday, charges against a former hospital worker, that of abduction and murder of an 18-year-old University of Virginia student, have been upgraded. The accused can now be sentenced to death penalty.


According to Albemarle County prosecutors, Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 33, was charged with the capital murder of Heather Graham. The prosecutors further said that the development in the case was based on discovery of new forensic evidence, according to Yahoo News.

The additional evidence was verified from a crime lab, as per Denise Lunsford, Albemarle County Commonwealth’s attorney.

Graham disappeared from her campus in Charlottesville on September 13, and her skeletal remains were discovered 10 miles away in October.

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The previous night, she met her friends at a restaurant for dinner. From there, she went to two off-campus parties. After leaving the second party by herself, she texted one of her friends, saying she was lost.

Authorities say that video evidence obtained showed Matthew and Graham together, and that Matthew was probably the last person Graham saw before her disappearance.

Lunsford said that the new evidence found was a “certificate of analysis” and the findings were “compelling enough to me that I thought capital charges were appropriate.” She didn’t reveal any details about the evidence.

Matthew, a medical technician at the university hospital, was arrested 10 days after Graham disappeared. He was initially charged with abduction with the intent to defile. Charges of first-degree murder were brought upon him in February.

According to ABC News, Lunsford said the new found evidence “further solidified” that Matthew is the perpetrator and that it “just basically made something an option that just wasn’t.”

The accused has not entered a plea to any of the charges. Lunsford said he has been assigned a new lawyer who has tried similar death penalty cases before.

The next court date is scheduled for June 25.

According to Daily Mail, the evidence found in this case links Matthew to the death of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old student of Virginia Tech who disappeared after attending a rock concert in town. The remains of Harrington were discovered in a field outside Charlottesville in 2010.

However, he has not been charged in that case.

Harrington’s mother, Gil, said, “I don’t know what justice looks like… I’ll be satisfied if this particular predator is never able to hurt [anyone] ever again.”

“I really don’t know what the justification for changing the charge is but that some bad things happened lives were lost, dreams broken.”

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