Suspect in Hannah Graham's death faces capital murder charge
It was supposed to be court hearing to schedule a new trial date for Jesse Matthew. But instead, a new charge has caused a shuffle in attorneys and a scramble for more time before his case finally goes to trial.
If the case does go to trial, prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for Matthew in the murder of the University of Virginia student.
"The new charge is capital murder, alleging first-degree murder and abduction with the intent to defile," said Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford.
If a jury finds Matthew guilty, the collective will have to decide between the capital murder or first-degree murder charge, which could be the difference between death or life in prison.
"The commonwealth received some additional forensic information in late February that led to this increase in charge," said Lunsford.
But the prosecutor would not say what exactly the lab had discovered that prompted grand jury's new indictment in early April.
Although Graham's family was not present in Albemarle Circuit Court on Tuesday, Morgan Harrington's mother was.
Harrington disappeared in Charlottesville five years before Graham, and since then, investigators have made a DNA connection to Matthew. However, he has not been charged in connection with Harrington's death.
"I'll be satisfied if this particular predator never is able to hurt anyone again," said Gil Harrington. "That was always my intent -- was to save the next girl. Unfortunately we couldn't save Hannah Graham."
The next hearing for Matthew is slated for June.
The judge is giving the defense time to file a potential motion asking for her recusal because the judge has a child who is a second-year student at the University of Virginia.
If she is not asked to step down from the case, she will set a trial date, which is likely to be held in the summer of 2016.
Graham disappeared after a night out with friends last September. The 18-year-old's remains were found in a rural area five weeks later.
A DNA sample has connected Matthew to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax County, according to authorities. His trial in that case is set for June 8.
DNA evidence also linked Matthew to the 2009 disappearance and death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, but Matthew has not been charged in that case.
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