Witness Describes Chilling Interaction With U.Va. Student Hannah Graham, Murder Suspect on Night She Disappeared

A witness who says she saw Virginia college student Hannah Graham and murder suspect Jesse Matthew together in a bar on the night that Graham vanished reportedly told a friend, "He's gonna f--- her up." 

Prosecution documents are revealing new details about the hours before Graham, 18, went missing in September 2014, including remarks made by the witness who saw Graham with a man police say is Matthew.

On the night that Graham disappeared, the woman was walking on Charlottesville's downtown mall when a man attempted to high-five her, she later told police. She didn't respond, but her friend did high-five him. She then saw the man walk up to a "female walking alone" and put his arm around her, according to a search warrant affidavit.

"He doesn't know her," the woman said to her friend.

She and her friend then followed the two to Tempo, a Charlottesville bar and restaurant where the four sat at the bar.

Police say the man in the bar was Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr.

Graham's remains were found five weeks later. Matthew has been charged with her murder, though his attorneys have questioned the credibility of the investigation that linked Matthew to the killing.

The new details about the night Graham, a University of Virginia student, went missing were released in court documents obtained by NBC29 in Charlottesville and shared with NBC Washington on Tuesday. They also detail the searches conducted of Matthew's Charlottesville apartment and car.

During a pretrial hearing Monday, Matthew's defense attorneys argued that crucial evidence should be thrown out, but after 10 hours of testimony, a judge sided with the prosecution.

It's evidence prosecutors believe could convict Matthew, 34, in Graham's abduction and killing. He is also charged in the 2009 murder of another college student, Morgan Harrington.  

Matthew is already serving three life terms in another case, an attempted murder and assault in 2006.

Timeline in Hannah Graham's Disappearance

According to a prosecution memo, police reviewed hours of security footage and spoke with witnesses to determine a timeline for Graham's and Matthew's whereabouts on the night of Sept. 12, 2014, and the early hours of Sept. 13, 2014.

Authorities say Graham, who was from Fairfax County, left her apartment at 9:33 p.m. Sept. 12, 2014, and was with her friends in Charlottesville's Fig Restaurant at 10:48 p.m.

Graham then went to the Camden Plaza Apartments on 14th street, and left around midnight. She was attending a party, authorities have previously said, and she left alone.

According to credit card receipts, Matthew spent $22.95 at Tempo shortly after midnight Sept. 13, 2014.

Starting at about 12:44 a.m., Graham was shown on surveillance videos from several businesses as she walked east toward the downtown Charlottesville mall.

At 12:56 a.m., she texted a friend, saying she was lost.

A friend of Graham's showed police screenshots of texts she received Graham that night. An affidavit says the texts appeared to show that Graham was intoxicated. Some of the texts included misspelled words or didn't make sense, the document said.

Surveillance video also showed Graham walking east on the downtown mall as a man police say is Matthew walked in the opposite direction. He stopped when she passed, waited for her to walk by and then followed her.

A witness later told police that she saw Matthew approach Graham on the mall and put his arm around her, authorities said.

Minutes later, the two are shown walking side by side on the mall, authorities say. Witness accounts and surveillance videos show Graham and Matthew in close bodily contact more than once in a short period of time, and the videos also show them talking, authorities said. They also said Matthew appeared to adjust his walking pace and direction to stay close to Graham.

The witness said Matthew entered Tempo with Graham and brought drinks with his card, according to the memo. According to credit card receipts, Matthew's credit card was charged $15.30 for drinks at Tempo at 1:10 a.m., prosecutors said.

Authorities say within 15 minutes of that time, a vehicle matching Matthew's was seen within a block of Tempo, and that they have reason to believe the two left together. However, defense attorneys dispute that account, saying police have information indicating that Graham walked away in a different direction from where Matthew's car was seen driving away.

During questioning several days later, Matthew said of that night, "I was pretty drunk that night, I don't remember," according to an affidavit from authorities.

Bloodhound Searches of Matthew's Apartment, Car 

During their search for Graham, police called in a bloodhound handler, the prosecutors' memo said. The dog tracked Graham's scent away from the downtown mall and to a mulch pile in the Woolen Hills area of Charlottesville, the prosecutors' memo said.

However, defense attorneys said bloodhound search evidence that was "intentionally or recklessly omitted" from an affidavit indicates Graham left Tempo and walked to a remote location without Matthew.

A bloodhound and cadaver dog searched Matthew's apartment. The cadaver dog's handler indicated there wasn't a strong scent present. However, the bloodhound indicated a scent associated with Graham on the passenger door of Matthew's car, on the asphalt where his car was parked, and around the threshold and sides of Matthew's foyer door and entry door, prosecutors said.

The dog's handler concluded that Graham hadn't been walking around at the location, but he said that her scent was present, the memo said. The bloodhound also indicated that her scent was present toward the rear entrance of Matthew's apartment, according to the memo.

The handler said there was a 60 percent chance that Graham's scent was present at Matthew's home.

The dog also showed interest in a dumpster near his apartment, the memo said.

However, defense attorneys dispute those accounts, saying the handler told Charlottesville investigators that he didn't believe Graham had been there.

Police Searches of Matthew's Apartment, Car

Police executed several search warrants on Matthew's apartment.

Officials retrieved several bags of evidence from those locations, including some that allegedly linked Matthew to other crimes. 

The prosecutors' memo said authorities seized bedding, fibers, a wallet, several articles of clothing and pillows. 

Matthew Faces Capital Murder Charge

Matthew is charged with capital murder in Graham's death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Monday's hearing for Matthew focused on police actions concerning Graham's disappearance and death.

During the hearing, Matthew's attorneys questioned the credibility of the investigators involved, specifically the information they gave to a judge, who allowed them to search Matthew's apartment and car for evidence.

"The defense is arguing the search warrant, which led to the discovery of evidence in Jesse Matthew's apartment, was not a valid search warrant, because the officers lied or misled the magistrate in some way about way the facts were," said former Albemarle County prosecutor Scott Goodman. 

"These attempts to get search warrants thrown out are not successful in most cases," he said.

A judge ruled that investigators were not misleading and the evidence is admissible. The defense will be able to challenge that notion Jan. 21, when more testimony will be heard.

A K-9 detective testified his bloodhound did not actually trace Graham to Matthew's apartment, as he alleged to a magistrate when police were seeking a search warrant.

Under cross examination by prosecutors, the detective said the dog traced the scent of Graham to the passenger side of Matthew's car, then to the entrance way of his apartment, and finally, to a nearby dumpster.

"The bottom line here is there was evidence found in Jesse Matthew's apartment that the defense doesn't want the jury to see or know about, so they're trying to get that evidence thrown out," Goodman said.

At a hearing last month, a judge approved the hiring of a mental health expert to examine Matthew before his trial.

The trial in Graham's murder is scheduled for July. Whatever the verdict, an appeal is expected.

Matthew is already serving three life terms for the attempted murder and sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in Fairfax, Virginia in 2005.

He is also facing first-degree murder charges in the death of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. She disappeared after attending a Metallica concert on the University of Virginia campus in 2009; her remains were found in early 2010.

Matthew's trial in Harrington's death is scheduled for October.

Authorities have said DNA from the Graham case links Matthew to Harrington's death, as well as the 2005 attack.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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