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Missing in America

UPDATE MISSING IN AMERICA: Hannah Graham

UPDATE (September 29th, 2014):

Jesse Matthew, the main suspect in the abduction of University of Virginia student, Hannah Graham, may be connected to the murder of Morgan Harrington, another Charlottesville, VA area case that has remained unsolved since October 2009.

Morgan, then 20 and a student at Virginia Tech, attended a Metallica concert in Charlottesville on the evening of October 17th, 2009. She was reported missing, and her body was found three months later in a nearby field.

On Monday afternoon, a possible forensic link was uncovered, and while state police remain cautiously optimistic, they say that there is,“still a great deal of work to be done in regards to this investigation.”

Gil Harrington, Morgan’s mother, spoke with NBC News before Matthew was apprehended, and any possible connection was established. She explained that her decision to help in rescue efforts for Hannah stemmed from her philosophy that, “it’s the little bit I can do to try and save the next girl.”

Morgan and Hannah represent two of the five missing person cases to come out of the Charlottesville area over the last five years. DaShad Laquinn Smith, 19, Samantha Ann Clarke, 19, and Alexis Murphy, 17, are still missing.

UPDATE (September 25th, 2014):

On Wednesday afternoon, police in Galveston County, Texas apprehended Jesse Matthew, the man suspected of abducting missing UVA student, Hannah Graham. Hannah had last been seen on security video with Matthew at 1 a.m. on September 13th in Charlottesville, Virginia.

According to NBC News, Matthew was arrested on a beach in Gilchrist, Texas at around 3:30 p.m. on September 24th. He appeared in a Texas court on Thursday morning and did not enter into any plea.

Matthew, 32, is a patient technician at the University of Virginia, where Hannah is in her sophomore year. Officials originally brought him in for questioning on September 20th, because they believed he was the last person seen with Hannah before she vanished. However, shortly after arriving at police headquarters, he requested a lawyer, abruptly left the premises, and sped off. Police then issued a warrant for his arrest stemming from reckless driving, and ultimately issued a second felony arrest warrant on Tuesday when they were able to charge him with abduction with intent to defile. While he was at large, officials searched his apartment twice, and left with several bags of evidence.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo spoke about the next steps in the case, with Today’s Hoda Kotb in an exclusive interview on Thursday morning: “We’re going to continue to very aggressively search, particularly the wooded and rural areas around the city, in an effort to try and find Hannah.”

The investigation is ongoing as law enforcement officials attempt to piece together what happened to Hannah.

ORIGINAL STORY (September 22nd, 2014):

The last time anyone heard from University of Virginia student Hannah Graham was via text message. In the early morning hours of September 13th, Hannah texted a friend she was lost.

Hannah, 18, disappeared after a night out in Charlottesville, VA. After spending several hours with friends, she was seen on surveillance video initially walking, then running, by a local gas station. At around 1 a.m., an eyewitness reported seeing Hannah walking towards the downtown pedestrian mall. Shortly thereafter, she sent that text message. No one has had contact with her since.

On September 20th, police announced that they named Jesse “LJ” Matthew a person of interest in the investigation, as he was allegedly seen on surveillance video near Hannah shortly before she vanished. At a press conference held the next day, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo explained the decision: “I believe Jesse Matthew was the last person she was seen with before she vanished off the face of the earth because it’s been a week and we can’t find her.” Matthew, 32, was brought in for questioning on the 20th and, after asking for a lawyer, left police headquarters abruptly, reportedly driving at a high rate of speed. According to NBC News, on September 22nd, police issued both an arrest warrant stemming from reckless driving charges and a second search warrant for Matthew’s residence. They executed the search warrant in the same afternoon, and left his residence with several bags of evidence. However, Matthew still remains at large. He is described as a black male with dreadlocks, 6’2”, weighing around 270 lbs.

Mooney, James

At the same Sunday press conference, Hannah’s parents, John and Susan Graham, urged anyone with information to come forward: “This is every parent’s worst nightmare. I’m certain that everybody in this room and those watching know that what happened to Hannah could happen to their child.”

Their words struck a chord with a community that has been through this before. Hannah is the fifth girl to go missing from the Charlottesville area in the last five years. Gil Harrington, whose daughter Morgan disappeared five years ago, understands all too well what the Grahams are going through. He told NBC News that he is volunteering to help search for Hannah because he remembers that while Morgan was missing, “it [was] a debilitating and emotional process.” Morgan’s body was found three months after rescue efforts began. Still missing are nineteen-year-olds DaShad Laquinn Smith, and Samantha Ann Clarke, as well as seventeen-year-old Alexis Murphy.

Hannah is described as being 5’11”, with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles. She was last seen wearing black pants and a crop top. A Facebook page, called Help Find Hannah Graham has been created, and anyone with information on both Hannah and Matthew’s whereabouts should call the police tip line at (434) 295-3851.