Capital murder indictment returned in U.Va. slaying case

This undated photo provided by the Charlottesville, Va. Police Department shows Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., left, who is now charged with abduction in Hanna Graham's disappearance. (AP Photo)

The man accused of abducting and killing a University of Virginia student has been charged with capital murder and a prosecutor said Tuesday she will seek the death penalty.

The indictment accusing Jesse L. Matthew Jr. of capital murder in the death of Hannah Graham is based on new forensic evidence, Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford said. She declined to elaborate on the new evidence.

Matthew, a former hospital worker, already is charged with first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile. He was arrested in Galveston last year in connection with the case.

Graham, 18, disappeared in September after a night out with friends in Charlottesville, where the school is located. Her remains were found weeks later in an area about 12 miles from the campus.

She died from "homicidal violence" but the exact cause is unknown, authorities have said.

Graham met friends at a restaurant for dinner last Sept. 12 before stopping by two off-campus parties. She left the second party alone and eventually texted a friend saying she was lost, according to authorities.

In surveillance video, she can be seen walking unsteadily and even running at times, past a pub and a service station and then onto a seven-block strip of bars, restaurants and shops.

Matthew was the last man seen with Graham.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins appointed regional capital defender Doug Ramseur and Charlottesville attorney Michael Hemenway to replace the lawyers who represented Matthew on the first-degree murder charge.

A June 25 hearing has been scheduled to set the trial date.

Lunsford said many factors go into pursuing a death penalty case.

"I would consider the nature of the offense, the history of the defendant, the exact nature of what happened," she said.

Ramseur declined to comment.

Police have said forensic evidence connects Matthew to another slaying in this college town. The remains of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington were found in 2010 in a field outside of Charlottesville. She had disappeared after attending a rock concert in the college town the previous year.

Matthew has not been charged in Harrington's death.

Matthew also faces trial June 8 on charges of attempted murder and sexual assault in an unrelated case in Fairfax County.
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