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Father of murdered Virginia Tech student: ‘Justice is coming’

Gil Harrington, the mother of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, speaks to reporters Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, outside the Albemarle County Courthouse. Jesse Matthew was arraigned on charges of first degree murder and abduction with intent to defile in the 2009 death and disappearance of Morgan Harrington. She was 20. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

By ALANNA DURKIN
Associated Press

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – The father a Virginia Tech student found dead six years ago after attending a rock concert in Charlottesville said Wednesday that “justice is coming” after a grand jury brought murder charges against the man he has long suspected in his daughter’s killing.

Wearing a gray striped jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled, Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was appointed attorneys during his first court appearance at Albemarle County Circuit Court on first-degree murder and abduction to defile charges in the 2009 death of 20-year-old Morgan Harrington.

Matthew is already scheduled to face trial next summer for the September 2014 disappearance and death of 18-year-old University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

Matthew stared down at Morgan Harrington’s parents as he walked by them as he left the courtroom to return to jail, where he is being held without bail. Dan Harrington, who watched Matthew as he walked out, said he wanted to show the man that he and his wife will not rest until justice is found for their daughter.

“I want him to know that we are present and we have been present for six years and we will be present for the months to come. He needs to know that justice is coming,” he said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the Graham case. Trial in that case has been set for July 2016.

Commonwealth Attorney Denise Lunsford said Wednesday prosecutors don’t intend to ask for the cases to be combined. The charges in the Harrington case signal the death penalty isn’t being sought in that prosecution. Lunsford declined to say why.

“All I can say about that is they are completely separate cases with completely separate facts and that’s what the facts lead to,” she said.

Matthew’s attorneys did not speak to reporters after the hearing and didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Morgan Harrington vanished after attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville in 2009. Her T-shirt was later found on a nearby tree limb and her body was found more than three months later in a field in Albemarle County. The location was about six miles from where missing Graham’s remains would be discovered nearly five years later.

Harrington’s death was ruled a homicide, but officials have not said how she was killed.

After police named Matthew as a person of interest in Graham’s disappearance, he fled and was later apprehended on a beach in Texas. A DNA sample collected after he was taken into custody connected him to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax County, according to authorities.

Matthew already faces up to life in prison after being convicted in June of attempted capital murder, abduction and sexual assault in that case. He’s expected to be sentenced in October.

Matthew, a former hospital worker and taxi driver, also has been accused of raping students in 2002 and 2003 at Liberty University and Christopher Newport University, where he had played football, but those cases were dropped when the women declined to press charges.

Authorities have previously said the DNA evidence in the Fairfax sexual assault linked Matthew to Harrington, but they have not said what that evidence is.

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Follow Alanna Durkin at http://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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© 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.



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