Virginia

Bill Would Require Va. Colleges to Report Sex Assaults

There is growing support in Virginia for proposed legislation that would make sure prosecutors learn quickly about campus sex assaults.

At a Richmond news conference, Fairfax County Del. Eillen Filler-Corn was joined by relatives of two young women who were abducted and killed. The measure, House Bill 1343, would require college, university and local police to notify the Commonwealth's Attorney within 48 hours of after receiving a sexual assault complaint from a victim.

"By getting the Commonwealth's attorney involved, it will make sure the investigation is promptly pursued and victims are given the resources they needed," explained Filler-Corn.

There to lend support today, Trina Murphy and Dan and Gil Harrington, families united in loss and determined to keep others from suffering the same pain. Murphy's niece Alexis was abducted and murdered near Charlottesville in 2013. The Harrington's daughter Morgan was abducted and killed when she was on the University of Virginia campus for a 2009 concert.

"I strongly urge the legislature to support this bill for Alexis, for Morgan for Hannah for my daughter and yours," Murphy said.

Much of the momentum for the bill comes in the wake of Hannah Graham's disappearance and death.

The body of the U.Va. student from Fairfax County was found in a rural area outside of Charlottesville in late October.

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Jesse Matthew has been charged with abduction in connection with the case. He's also charged with raping a Fairfax woman in 2005 and there's a forensic link to the Harrington case.

Years ago, Matthew was accused of sex assaults on two campuses but never charged.

Dan Harrington said if those cases had been handled differently, Matthew's later alleged victims might have been spared.

"Potentially, if you'd had different discussion with the victims, they would have maybe taken it forward and be prosecuted and the three of us would maybe not have this talk today," Harrington said.

The Harrington's have founded an organization called "Help Save the Next Girl" and they are now joined in their work by Trina Murphy.

"I believe our college students in the Commonwealth deserve the same standard response to serious crimes like sexual assault as every other citizen," said Gil Harrington.

The Virginia Sheriff's Association is supporting the bill, along with Fairfax County Commonwealth's attorney Ray Morrogh, Fairfax City Police Chief Mary Gavin and Fairfax County Sheriff Stacy Kincaid.

The bill also got a bi-partisan boost Tuesday. The Republican chairman of the of the Virginia House Courts of Justice committee, Del. Dave Albo, signed on as a co-sponsor. If approved, the bill would only apply to public colleges and universities.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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