Judge rejects motion to exclude evidence from Jesse Matthew’s apartment

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Evidence seized from Jesse Matthew’s apartment while University of Virginia student Hannah Graham was still missing can be used by prosecutors in his upcoming capital murder trial, a judge has ruled.

With Graham’s parents, John and Susan, in the second row of the Albemarle County Circuit courtroom, Matthew’s lawyers argued Thursday that police seized items that hadn’t been authorized by a search warrant in an attempt to gather Matthew’s DNA.

“This was an exploratory rummaging through everything,” said Matthew’s defender Douglas Ramseur, during a hearing before Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins.

Ramseur said seven of the 26 items seized were beyond the scope of the warrant, including Matthew’s Samsung phone, boxer shorts, his wallet, a cigar tip, his paycheck, a pair of khaki shorts and four toothbrushes, including Matthew’s Washington Redskins toothbrush.

“Do you believe a toothbrush was used to commit this abduction?” Ramseur asked Charlottesville Detective Jeremy Carper. “Was Hannah Graham abducted through the use of a wallet?”

Carper served the warrant at Matthew’s Hessian Hills apartment Sept. 19, 2014, six days after Graham was last seen with Matthew on the Charlottesville mall.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elliott Casey countered that the items were seized because they appeared to have semen or blood stains on them.

Judge Higgins agreed with prosecutors, ruling the search was appropriate. Higgins said Virginia’s Supreme Court has even approved the collection of lint from a dryer in a case where DNA evidence might have gone through the laundry.

Matthew goes on trial for the capital murder of Graham in July. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

The 33-year-old is also charged with murdering Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington in 2009. Last year he was sentenced to three life sentences for the 2005 rape and attempted murder of a woman in Fairfax City.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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