Murder trial in case of U.Va. student delayed

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — For the first time Wednesday, Jesse Matthew sat face to face with the parents of murdered University of Virginia student Hannah Graham and the mother of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington.

Matthew is charged with kidnapping and killing Graham, and is a suspect in Harrington’s death. Both students’ remains were found in rural parts of Albemarle County, almost four years apart.

Harrington’s mother Gil says “it’s a strange feeling” to look into the eyes of the man who is suspected of killing her daughter, but says watching Matthew’s prosecution is “one of the last things I can do for Morgan.”

Harrington, active in Help Save The Next Girl, formed in honor of her daughter, considered herself lucky to be able to see Matthew face to face.

“We know a lot of people who have not had this resolution, whose family members and loved one are still missing,” said Harrington. “Although it’s an odd place to be at, we’re really grateful that we have this opportunity for justice to occur.”

Matthew has not been charged in connection with Morgan Harrington’s death but evidence from her case connected him to a 2005 rape in Fairfax City, where he now faces charges.

The Grahams left the courthouse without comment.

In a pretrial hearing, Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins granted defense motions to authorize paying for a DNA expert and to delay the trial, which had been scheduled to begin June 29. A new trial date will be set at a May 5 hearing.

Mathew’s defense attorney Jim Camblos said he was pleased with the rulings, and said his client “is holding up.”

When Matthew was led into the courtroom, with his wrists and ankles shackled, he smiled slightly at his family members, who declined to comment on their way in and out of the courthouse.

As Matthew settled at the defense table between Camblos and a court-appointed public defender, James Hingeley, his eyes darted around the gallery. At one point he looked toward the Grahams and Harrington, who sat in the second row behind the prosecution’s table.

It was unclear whether Matthew recognized the parents of Graham and Harrington, who appeared on television often during the time Matthew was on the run. Sources say the defense did not inform Matthew that the parents were present.

Asked if they anticipated filing other motions before Matthew’s next hearing, Hingeley requested and was the granted permission to file “if something comes up.”

Earlier, in Fairfax, Camblos had said he intended to ask for an insanity screening, but that has not happened in either jurisdiction.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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