The case of Hannah Graham, the missing University of VA student, who went missing over two weeks ago, is now becoming like something straight out of a TV series, either Criminal Minds, Cold Case or 48 Hours or all combined. In some other ways, it is eerily similar to the case of Charles Severance, the man now charged in the three Alexandria, VA murders of Ruthanne Lodato, Ron Kirby and of realtor Nancy Dunning from over a decade ago. Police were looking into the murder of Ruthanne Lodato from a composite sketch made by a witness when forensics evidence from Severance’s home linked him to the two earlier murders. And now in the case of suspect Jesse Matthew, police leaked information that forensics evidence found at either his car or house may link him to another student who went missing over 2 years ago. And a composite sketch of a suspect wanted for another rape in 2005 appears in his likeness. But what does all of this mean in the case of Hannah Graham?
Up to now, the police have been very closed mouthed about what evidence links Jesse Matthew to Hannah Graham’s alleged abduction. Yet, information has been leaked about a 2002 rape allegation against Matthew by a Liberty University student who did not pursue any charges, a possible link to a date drug where Matthew works as an operating room tech and now the missing student from 2 years ago.
Meanwhile Matthew has been described by friends and family as a “gentle giant”. Yet, if the police leaks turn out to point to Matthew, he may be more like a serial abductor than a” gentle giant”. Matthews has no record to speak of. And there are cases where no prior criminal record exists, yet the perpetrator committed heinous acts. That is not unlikely in sexual abuse cases. Sexual abuse cases occur with teachers, police officers and other unlikely highly respected individuals without a record and with a solid background.
But the Commonwealth of Virginia must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. And as Matthew’s court date nears on Thursday for his initial appearance, he will soon receive thereafter a preliminary hearing date . At a preliminary hearing, the prosecution must put its cards on the table and show them. This means they must show that their evidence matches the charges. A judge did issue and sign an arrest warrant for Matthew. The judge prior to signing an arrest warrant would have been aware of the statements of the police linking Jesse Mathew to Hannah Graham’s alleged abduction. And signing and issuing the warrant means the police have probable cause to arrest Matthew. And probable cause means the police have enough evidence to convince a reasonable person of the charges. Whether the prosecution has enough evidence to convict Jesse Matthew remains to be seen. Probable cause is a low standard and doesn’t weigh the evidence or its credibility. And Matthew isn’t talking now on the advice of his counsel.
The prosecution will need to prove its case without a statement from Matthew. The prosecution will shortly need to show what evidence links Jesse Matthew to Hannah Graham and stop the guessing game that everyone in the media is doing.
The link below shows a legal analysis by Debbie Hines of the Jesse Matthew case on Fox 5 News on September 29, 2014. His arraignment is set for Thursday, October 2.
UPDATE: Matthew’s hearing set for Thurs. has now been moved to December, according to his attorney.
DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG