Jesse Matthew Sentenced to Three Life Terms for 2005 Attack

Three life terms for attempted murder, sexual assault of 26-year-old woman

Jesse Matthew -- the man charged with the murders of college students Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington -- has been sentenced to three life terms in prison for a 2005 attempted murder and sex assault in Fairfax, Virginia.

Matthew's mother screamed in court as her son was sentenced in the attack, which a prosecutor described as "brutal," saying the victim was "beaten to a pulp," News4 Northern Virginia reporter David Culver said.

Matthew, 33, received a life term for each of three counts in the Fairfax case: attempted capital murder, abduction with intent to defile and object sexual penetration.

Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh said Matthew showed no acceptance of responsibility and no remorse.

"He was a cruel and savage sexual predator," Morrogh said.

Matthew declined the judge's offer to speak in court. 

While the defense acknowledged the Graham and Harrington cases, Matthew's lawyer said that Matthew had a difficult upbringing, dealing with an alcoholic father, poverty, dyslexia and racism.

"They do perhaps help to explain how this could happen," the attorney said.

Matthew's family had asked the judge for leniency, and a former girlfriend wrote a letter on Matthew's behalf saying he was raped as a child.

But in court Friday, the prosecutor said that didn't matter.

"What difference does it make to this case really?" Morrogh said.

In September 2005, the victim, then 26, was walking home from a grocery store when a stranger approached her and asked her about directions, she testified in court. She tried to answer him and then walked away, saying the man's demeanor left her unnerved. But a few steps from her door, she said, her attacker grabbed her and dragged her into some nearby woods.

"He banged my head on the grass, on the ground. I was trying to push him away," the woman said. "I was punching him. He choked me. He said, 'If you scream again, I will twist your neck. If you let me do this, I will let you go.'"

At some point, she said, she lost consciousness as she was being choked. The attack ended when Matthew ran off as a bystander approached, she said.

"She looked like she was nearly dead," said the man who intervened, Mark Castro. "She was walking toward me, slowly. ... She had a lot of blood on her. She was in bad shape."

Prosecutors said the victim's efforts to fight off her attacker helped produce the DNA evidence that linked Matthew to the attack, years later. DNA evidence collected from Matthew during last year's investigation into Graham's disappearance linked him to the Fairfax case.

The victim flew in from India to testify against Matthew earlier this year

"If she had not come here, he would have been free," Morrogh said. "I know she did it not just for herself but for Hannah, for Morgan."

Matthew, of Charlottesville, Virginia, took an Alford plea in the 2005 assault this June. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict.

After Matthew's sentencing Friday, his mother yelled, "I hope you rot in hell," reported Justin Jouvenal of The Washington Post. However, it was unclear to whom her outburst was directed.

Matthew's mother then was escorted out of the courtroom, screaming "No!" 

After, she could still be heard crying hysterically from the witness room.

Morgan Harrington's mother, Gil Harrington, said she recognized Matthew's mother's anguish. 

"I have heard that same ugly, gut sound coming from my mouth when I heard my daughter had been killed. I have heard that same ugly sound coming from Sue Graham's mouth," she said.

Graham's parents also attended the sentencing and were escorted out afterward privately.

Matthew's trial for the murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham is scheduled for July 2016; he faces a possible death sentence in that case. Graham disappeared after a night out with friends in September 2014. Her remains were found five weeks later.

Matthew will also go on trial in October 2016 for the 2009 slaying of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who vanished after attending a Metallica concert on the University of Virginia campus. Her body was found in early 2010. Investigators have linked evidence from the Graham case to Harrington's murder.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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