Jesse Matthew Enters Alford Guilty Plea in 2005 Sex Assault in Fairfax

Jesse Matthew, the man charged in the death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, has entered an Alford plea in a separate sexual assault case dating back to 2005.

An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgment that there is enough evidence to convict.

The plea came shortly after midday Wednesday, following an unusually long break after prosecutors wrapped up their case against Matthew. Testimony linked him to DNA found under the fingernail of a woman who was sexually assaulted in fall 2005 in the City of Fairfax.

“She’s the one that got away, and I’m sure that she didn’t feel like the lucky one, but thank God she did,” said Gil Harrington, mother of Morgan Harrington, who disappeared in 2009 and whose death is also linked to the Fairfax case.

The testimony from a forensic scientist was the key evidence against Matthew at his trial. Scientist Elizabeth Ballard said the chance of someone other than Matthew being the source of the DNA was less than one in 7.2 billion.

The judge accepted the deal Wednesday for all three charges against Matthew, who said he understood he could face life in prison for each of the three charges. He acknowledged he knew that there is no parole in Virginia.

"Mr. Matthew, the court finds you guilty of attempted capital murder, abduction with intent to defile and object sexual penetration...." the judge said, accepting Matthew's plea.

Two of the offenses will require Matthew to register as a sex offender.

He will remain in custody without bond and will be sentenced Oct. 2.

No plea agreement offers were made to the defense; Matthew voluntarily entered the plea, reported NBC29's Laura French.

"There was no plea agreement," Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh said. "The commonwealth can’t stop defendants from pleading guilty."

He wanted the case go to the jury.

"I've tried hundreds of jury trials, and you never know what a jury is thinking," Morrogh said. "But I felt that certainly they were attentive. I was very satisfied with them."

One juror said the case was clear in his mind once the DNA evidence was presented, adding that he would've convicted Matthew, News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter David Culver reports.

After the prosecution rested, Judge David Schell rejected a request from the defense to strike the charges against Matthew. Public defender Dawn Butorac said that the prosecution's case rests almost exclusively on the DNA evidence and that it's insufficient for a jury to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defense had contended that the DNA could have inadvertently transferred from Matthew to the victim by coming into contact with a common surface or some other form of innocent transfer.

Butorac also said the description given by the victim does not precisely match Matthew, who was slightly younger, taller and heavier than what was given to police at the time of the attack.

Lastly, the lawyer said there was insufficient evidence to support a charge of attempted capital murder because the crime lacked a specific intent to kill.

Prosecutor Ray Morrogh said the evidence presented at trial supports the charges, noting that the attacker specifically threatened to kill the victim if she didn't comply.

The victim, who flew back from India to testify, told jurors Monday that her attacker grabbed her just steps from the door to her townhouse and carried her into a darkened area, where he ripped off her clothes and molested her.

“I applaud her courage to come forth, and the bravery, especially given the cultural constraints that she’s faced, and, by golly, she wants to stand in front of the court and speak her peace, and that also shows incredible bravery, that she will be back here to address the court at large,” Gil Harrington said. “Phenomenal.”

"He physically picked her up like a baby... and carried her into the darkness," Morrogh said. "He did that to render her helpless for his purpose: to kill her and molest her for his pleasure."

She fought and scratched her attacker, yielding the crucial DNA evidence, until he ran off as a bystander approached.

The woman did not explicitly identify Matthew as her attacker during her testimony.

In a separate case, Matthew is also charged with the abduction and murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham last fall. Graham disappeared after a night out with friends; her remains were found several weeks later.

Authorities have also said that the DNA found under the fingernail of the Fairfax victim is linked to the death of Morgan Harrington. Harrington, who attended Virginia Tech, vanished in October 2009 after attending a concert at the University of Virginia. Her remains were found early the following year.

Matthew has not been charged in Harrington's death.

Harrington's mother was in the courtroom Wednesday, saying after the plea deal that she was "pleased."

“I certainly want a day in court for our daughter," she said. "I definitely do, although I am happy that it’s very unlikely that this criminal will ever hurt anyone again, and my impetus and urge has always been to save the next girl from this particular perpetrator and any other sexual perpetrator.”

Aimee Cho contributed to this report.

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