A private moment between mothers in Matthew pretrial

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The most dramatic moment in pretrial hearings for the man charged with murdering University of Virginia student Hannah Graham and Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington came after Jesse Matthew left the courtroom.

Harrington’s mother, Gil, crossed the center aisle of the Albemarle County Circuit courtroom, and headed toward Jesse Matthew’s mother, Debra Carr, who was waiting for the courtroom to clear.

“I looked his mother in the eye and said ‘I realize this is difficult for your family as well — my condolences,’ and I shook her hand,” Harrington said.

Harrington said Carr looked surprised, paused, nodded at Harrington, and mouthed “thank you.”

“She knows. We know. It was a mother-to-mother moment,” said Harrington, who along with her husband, Dan, founded the nonprofit Help Save The Next Girl to prevent violence against young women.

“It felt like the right thing to do,” Harrington said. “I want them to know I do not vilify them.”

Before court, Harrington said she was “very amenable” to a plea to avoid a trial for her daughter’s 2009 murder.

“I think it would be the most merciful [for] all of the families involved,” Harrington said.

Matthew, who faces three life sentences when he’s sentenced Friday in Fairfax for a 2005 rape, was indicted for first-degree murder in Harrington’s death and capital murder for Graham’s 2014 abduction and death.

Judge Cheryl Higgins set an Oct. 24, 2016 trial date for the Harrington murder, three months after his scheduled trial for Graham’s death.

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