Find Hannah: Police Searching for Man Seen Talking to Missing UVA Student Prior to Disappearance

Friends of 18-year-old Hannah Elizabeth Graham last heard from her via text message at 1:20 a.m. on Sept. 13.

Police searching for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Elizabeth Graham are now looking for a man whom another witness saw put his arm around the nursing student soon before she disappeared early Saturday morning.

Graham, 18, was last seen on surveillance video around Charlottesville's downtown mall just after 1 a.m. last Saturday morning. 

A man shown in those surveillance videos has already spoken with police, and is being called a "cooperative person of interest."

At 1:06 a.m., a camera at Sal's Restaurant recorded him walking in front of Graham, stopping and then walking behind her. Two minutes later, a camera at Tuel Jewelers, also on the mall, recorded Graham walking with another woman while the same man followed her. 

Charlottesville Police Capt. Gary Pleasants told NBC29 late Wednesday evening they spoke with that man, who told officers he noticed Graham was disoriented and he wanted to help her.

He told police that after he spoke with her, he saw a second man -- now being called a "person of interest" by police -- speaking to Graham and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. The witness said it appeared as though the man was also concerned about Graham or possibly that he knew her.

The person of interest is described as a black man who stands between 5'10" and 5'11" and weighs between 250 and 285 pounds, with a closely-shaved goatee and a slight "beer belly." At the time, he was wearing black jeans and a white T-shirt.

Charlottesvlle police say they will search for more surveillance video from area businesses Thursday in an attempt to get a clearer description of the situation surrounding Graham's alleged encounter with the person of interest.

Thousands of U.Va. students gathered at a vigil Thursday evening to honor Graham, even bringing several of her favorite things -- a U.K. flag, skis and strawberry Starburst candy. Her best friends wrote a letter to Graham and read it out loud at the packed outdoor amphitheater.

"Simply put, we miss you so much. You make things good, Hannah Graham. Where are you? We want you back where you belong."

Thursday, police announced with the help of U.Va., local businesses and Charlottesville residents, they will be offering a $50,000 reward for information in Graham's disappearance.

Wednesday afternoon, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo and lead investigator Detective Sgt. Jim Mooney discussed the chronology beginning Friday night and showed two surveillance videos of the 18-year-old by herself.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo discussed the search for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Graham, who is from Fairfax County, was last seen wearing black pants and a gold crop top with black mesh cutouts, according to surveillance photos taken Friday at her apartment around 9:30 p.m.

Police said she met friends for dinner at a strip of bars, restaurants and night spots near the university. She left by herself around 11 p.m.

She was spotted outside McGrady's Irish Pub, then walking east along Preston Avenue in Charlottesville at 12:46 a.m. Saturday. 

Investigators say the Fairfax County teen appeared intoxicated but was not injured.

About 10 minutes later, surveillance video shows her outside a Shell gas station on Preston Avenue, NBC29 reported. She broke into a run, but police said no one was behind her on the tape.

By 1 a.m., Graham made it to the downtown mall in Charlottesville where the latest surveillance video was found. Police say Graham interacted with the person of interest around 1:15 a.m.

Her friends last heard from her at 1:20 a.m., when she sent a text indicating she was lost.

She was last seen in the 300 block of East Main Street, Pleasants said, and reported missing Sunday. 

Longo choked up as he described talking to Graham's parents, John and Susan Graham, earlier in the day. He read a statement from them.

"Hannah is beyond precious to us, and we are devastated by her disappearance,'' the statement read. "It is totally out of character for us not to have heard from her, and we fear foul play."

But police lack substantial evidence of foul play at this point, Longo said.

"Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends," Graham's family said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "She is highly responsible and organized. She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends."

Police are continuing to track the last known whereabouts of a missing University of Virginia nursing student.

Stephen Rice, the band director at Graham's alma mater, West Potomac High School, agreed. "Hannah is not the kind of kid that would just go on a road trip and disappear," he said. "She was always very diligent with everything she did, and always did everything exactly by the book." Graham graduated from West Potomac in 2013.

The FBI has confirmed that it is involved in the search for her, saying only that it is providing investigative resources to local police. Albemarle County's search and rescue teams also lent a hand to Charlottesville Police Tuesday in their search for Hannah.

"We're mostly giving them some extra eyes and feet on the ground to actually cover more area quicker. In these searches, time is of the essence in trying to find someone," said Bobby Shiflett with Albemarle County Sheriff's Office. 

Graham, who is originally from England, is 5-feet-11-inches tall with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles, according to university officials. Graham's family moved to the U.S. when she was five years old.

Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports on refocusing the search for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement saying the community is "united in our deep concern'" for the second-year student.

Graham's parents left their Northern Virginia home to go to Charlottesville to help look for her earlier this week, and a "Help Find Hannah Graham"' page has been established on Facebook.

"I just want her home safe. I'm scared for her," said Karen Blunk, who lives next door to Graham's parents. "Just from the standpoint of, you hear horrible things."

Police in Charlottesville are searching for a missing University of Virginia student. News4’s Chris Gordon reports.

In October 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, went missing after leaving the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena while attending a rock concert. Her remains were found three months later in a rural area. No arrests have been made.

"It's heartbreaking to know that another young woman is missing and that another family is going through the anguish of the missing period," said Harrington's mother.

At least two other young women, both 19 years old, have also disappeared in the area in recent years. Samantha Ann Clarke vanished after leaving her Orange County townhouse in September 2010. DaShad Laquinn Smith disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012. Neither have been found.

Anyone with information regarding Graham's whereabouts is asked to call a 24/7 tipline at 434-295-3851. Police say they've received more than 200 tips so far.

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