Officials investigating the disappearance of a University of Virginia student focused Monday on the man they believe was the last person seen with her, searching his apartment for a second time and trying to locate the campus employee to arrest him on reckless driving charges.
Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., 32 and a patient technician in the operating room at the university’s medical center, hasn’t been charged in the disappearance, but authorities say they want to talk to him about Hannah Graham, 18. She has been missing since Sept. 13. Police have not offered any details about how the two may be connected.
“I believe Jesse Matthew was the last person she was seen with before she vanished off the face of the Earth because it’s been a week and we can’t find her,” Charlottesville police Chief Timothy Longo said. “I’ve made no mistake about it. We want to talk to Jesse Matthew. We want to talk to him. We want to talk to him about his interaction with this sweet, young girl we can’t find.”
But, Longo also noted that “I don’t want to get tunnel vision just because we have a name, just because we saw her with a particular person.”
After initial searches of Matthew’s car and apartment Friday morning, police returned with a new search warrant to his Charlottesville apartment Monday, city spokeswoman Miriam Dickler said. She did not say what they were looking for or whether they found anything.
On Saturday, Matthew stopped by the Charlottesville police station with several family members and asked for a lawyer, Longo said. He was provided with one but left in a vehicle at a high rate of speed that endangered other drivers and led to the reckless driving charges, according to the police chief. He said Matthew was there for about an hour.
Virginia State Police officers were conducting surveillance of the vehicle at the time but did not pursue Matthew, a spokeswoman said.
On Monday, the Charlottesville Police Department released a wanted poster on Matthew. It says the 6-foot-2, 270-pound man was last reported on Sunday as driving his sister’s 1997 light blue Nissan Sentra, and notes that he is said to have contacts in Virginia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
Police said they have focused on Graham’s movements the night of Sept. 12 and into the early morning hours of Sept. 13. Graham, a sophomore from northern Virginia, met friends at a restaurant for dinner, stopped by two parties at off-campus housing units and left the second party alone, police have said.
Surveillance videos showed her walking, and at some points running, past a pub and a service station and then onto the Downtown Mall, a seven-block pedestrian strip lined with shops and restaurants.
Graham’s disappearance has sent a ripple of fear through the quiet college town of Charlottesville. Students have said they’ve begun walking in pairs at night and are paying closer attention to their surroundings. More than 1,000 volunteers also participated in a weekend search for Hannah Graham, according to authorities.
Graham’s parents appeared at a Sunday news conference where her father, John Graham, appealed for anyone with information to call a police tip line.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” John Graham said. “We need to find out what happened to Hannah and make sure it happens to no one else.”
According to family members and police, Graham is an alpine skier and plays the alto saxophone. Organizers of a candlelight vigil last week at the university handed out her favorite candy, Starburst. Longo said he learned from visiting with Graham’s parents that the graduate of West Potomac High School earned straight A’s six years in a row.