Police investigated more than 40 people of interest before their nine-year search for the man who brutally attacked a woman in 2005 led them to Jesse Matthew, a detective testified Tuesday.
Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, is on trial in Fairfax for attempted murder and sexual assault on a woman. He is also charged in a separate case with capital murder in the abduction and death last year of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. The cases are linked by DNA evidence.
Defense attorneys cross-examined the lead detective in the Fairfax case about other suspects and people whose names showed up in the detective's investigative file.
The defense hoped to show jurors that someone other than Matthew might have been the perpetrator, noting that many of the people in the file more closely matched the victim's description of her attacker than Matthew, who is taller, heavier and slightly younger than the description provided to police in 2005.
The detective, Michael Boone, acknowledged that he had pursued the case aggressively and pursued a wide variety of leads and tips, often clearing names quickly because they had an alibi or a DNA profile that ruled them out.
Ultimately, though, Boone said the key to cracking the case was finding the person whose DNA matched that found under the fingernail of the victim, who scratched and fought her attacker.
"We needed to identify the foreign DNA to identify the perpetrator,'' Boone said, though the judge later went back and ordered the jury to disregard his answer because of a defense objection.
The defense asked jurors at the outset of the trial to be cautious in evaluating DNA evidence, suggesting that Matthew's DNA could have been inadvertently transferred to the victim by coming in contact with a surface.
Fairfax City Police Lt. Joseph Trahey, the first officer to respond to the alleged assault, testified Tuesday the woman attacked in 2005 was covered in blood and appeared to be in shock afterward.
DNA recovered from the attack links Matthew to the crime, police said.
The trial began Monday with testimony from the victim, who flew back from India to give her account of the September 2005 attack.
She testified in detail about the assault but never explicitly identified Matthew as her attacker.
Prosecutors had indicated before trial that they might not ask the woman to point out her attacker in court. And defense lawyers had questioned in pretrial hearings whether she could do so reliably, given the passage of time and the pretrial publicity that frequently broadcast Matthew's face in connection with the Hannah Graham case, which drew international headlines.
But public defender Robert Frank, another of Matthew's lawyers, urged jurors to be cautious in evaluating DNA evidence. Frank said DNA can be transferred inadvertently by coming in contact with common objects.