Jesse Matthew, Convicted Killer of Virginia College Students Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington, Has Cancer

What to Know

  • Matthew is serving life sentences for the 2009 murder of VA Tech student Morgan Harrington and the 2014 murder of UVA student Hannah Graham

Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., who abducted and killed two Virginia college students five years apart, was transferred to a new prison this week so he can receive medical treatment for cancer.

Matthew, now 37, is serving multiple life sentences for the 2009 murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington and the 2014 murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. He pleaded guilty in 2016 to both killings.

Matthew first disclosed his cancer diagnosis during a telephone interview with WTVR-TV on May 8, without providing details.

He was transferred Monday from the Red Onion State Prison in Wise County to Sussex I State Prison, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections confirmed. She would not comment on Matthew's diagnosis, citing the confidentiality of medical records.

Harrington's mother, Gil Harrington, said Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci told her that Matthew has stage 4 colon cancer and was transferred for treatment. The prosecutor did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment. 

Gil Harrington said she and her husband had a muted reaction when they heard about Matthew's cancer diagnosis.


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"Whatever justice is, perhaps this is the next phase of his justice. Perhaps this is his karma," she said. "I'm not happy about it, but I'm very sanguine for whatever unfolds here." 

It could not immediately be determined where Matthew will receive his treatment.

In addition to the sentences he is serving in the two murders, Matthew is also serving three life sentences for the sexual assault and attempted murder of a 26-year-old woman in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2005. Matthew was not linked to that case nor to Morgan Harrington's killing until he was apprehended in the Hannah Graham case.

Harrington, 20, disappeared the night of Oct. 17, 2009 after she left a Metallica concert at a UVA basketball arena. Her body was found more than three months later in a field about 10 miles south of Charlottesville.

Nearly five years later, 18-year-old Graham also went missing. On the night of Sept. 12, 2014, Graham went out with friends but left a party alone. She was last seen on surveillance the early-morning hours of Sept. 13, walking and, at times, running past a service station and a restaurant. She texted a friend that she was lost. Surveillance video showed her crossing Charlottesville's downtown pedestrian mall, then leaving a restaurant with Matthew, his arm wrapped around her.

Graham's disappearance prompted a massive search. Her body was discovered five weeks later about six miles from where Harrington's remains had been found. 

Since Harrington's death, her mother has devoted herself to Help Save the Next Girl, a nonprofit organization she founded to honor her daughter and to familiarize young women with potential predatory dangers.

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