Police Scrutinize Black Person of Interest Seen With Missing White Student

Washington Post
September 21, 2014

Hannah Graham has been missing since last Saturday.

Police pleaded with the public Friday to come forward with information about a man who they believe was in a bar with University of Virginia student Hannah Graham about the time she went missing last Saturday, saying they know who he is and have spoken with him but don’t have enough information to arrest him.

At an unusual news conference here, Police Chief Timothy Longo released specific details about the man — describing him as black, 32 years old, 6-foot-2, 270 pounds and having dreadlocks — but would not identify him. Police said surveillance videos show the man noticing Graham, circling around behind her and following her through a downtown pedestrian mall about 1 a.m. He then is seen in surveillance video with his arm around her, and police said the two walked to a bar around the corner.

Police said that the man purchased alcohol there and that it is the last place anyone can say they saw Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore from Fairfax County. Longo said police know that the man drove away from the area in a burnt-orange 1998 Chrysler coupe.

But Longo also said that although police have identified that man, know his name and have searched his car and apartment, they do not have grounds to arrest him. Police would not discuss their interactions with him.

“People saw Hannah, and people saw him and people saw them together,” Longo said at a 5 p.m. news conference Friday. “It is possible Hannah Graham may have gotten into his vehicle, a vehicle we seized. . . . We have every reason to believe she was in that car.”

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Jesse ‘LJ’ Matthew is the ‘person of interest’ that the Police are investigating.

Police are searching the car and hope that more surveillance video and witnesses can help lead them to Graham. So far, there is no evidence of any crime. Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Warner D. “Dave” Chapman declined to comment.

Graham’s disappearance from an area of Charlottesville that is considered safe, about a mile east of the center of campus, has shaken the student body at Virginia’s flagship public university. Students held vigils, the town is plastered with “Missing” signs showing Graham’s face, and a massive volunteer search is scheduled for Saturday. Her case emphasizes the potential dangers and vulnerabilities of what many students consider a part of college: weekend drinking and walking alone through town.

Graham had spent the last evening before her disappearance at a restaurant near campus, swing dancing and performing in a raucous conga line with friends.

“She was happy as can be,” said junior Jenna Van Dyck, 20, one of the last people to see Graham before she went wandering through town.

“It was a happy, lighthearted time with friends,” said junior Hallie Pence, 21, who also was among the students who were with Graham at Fig Bistro and Bar.

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