Victim Testifies at Hearing for Suspect in Fairfax Sex Assault, U.Va. Killing

A woman who authorities say was sexually assaulted by the same man charged with killing a University of Virginia student came face to face with the man in a Fairfax courtroom.

The encounter was brief, and the woman's testimony was focused on a narrow legal question, but it provided a preview of the courtroom drama expected next week, when a jury trial will begin for 33-year-old Jesse Matthew.

Matthew, of Charlottesville, is charged in Fairfax with abducting and sexually assaulting the woman who testified at Thursday's pretrial hearing.

The woman now lives in India and flew into the area Thursday afternoon, exhausted from traveling with two small children. When a request for a delay in the hearing was denied, she appeared in court, just 10 feet away from Matthew, and calmly testified for the first time in the case.

The hearing was to determine whether the woman's ability to identify Matthew as her attacker had been corrupted by pretrial publicity in which Matthew's face has been shown repeatedly.

Matthew's defense attorney wanted to suppress or block that moment at trial when the victim might point out Jesse Matthew as her attacker. The defense charged that detectives guided the victim to media coverage online after Matthew was arrested last fall, enabling her to identify him. In 2005, after the then 26-year-old woman was grabbed and raped while walking home from a Fairfax grocery store, she had only a vague description of her attacker, the defense argued.

She testified detectives didn't direct her online after Matthew was indicted on a charge of her rape, saying her own curiosity drew her to look online in October and view one picture of Matthew. She testified she told a detective Matthew's hair was different from her attacker's but the face was familiar.

The judge ruled there was not enough evidence to show police had tried to influence her ability to identify Matthew, allowing her to answer that key question at trial.

Defense attorneys also made a last-ditch attempt to delay the trial, but the judge denied that.

Monday's trial is just the first facing Matthew. He also faces capital murder charges in the abduction and death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

Contact Us