Missing U-Va. student Hannah Graham's parents appeared at a news conference Sunday. Graham's father, John Graham, pleaded people to share information regarding his daughter who disappeared eight days ago in Charlottesville, Va. (AP)


By T. Rees Shapiro September 22 at 4:37 PM
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Police on Monday released
a wanted poster seeking the man who was with University of Virginia student Hannah Graham immediately before she disappeared last week as they hope speak with the man about his interactions with Graham in the early morning hours of Sept. 13.

Though such posters are usually reserved for moments when police are trying to track down suspected violent criminals, drug dealers, abductors and fugitives, the Charlottesville Police Department wants Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., 32, on two counts of reckless driving. Matthew has not been charged with any crime related to Graham’s disappearance, and police have presented no evidence that a crime occurred. Graham has been missing now for nine days without a trace of her whereabouts.

The poster release also comes two days after Matthew walked through the police department’s front door, met with police, asked for a lawyer, was allowed to leave, and was then cited as he allegedly sped away. The photograph on the poster is dated Sept. 19 — Friday — the day police searched his car and Charlottesville apartment after surveillance video showed him walking with Graham through a pedestrian mall about a mile east of the U-Va. campus.

[Timeline: The search for Hannah Graham]

Police have said they do not have grounds to arrest Matthew in Graham’s case but would like to talk to him about Graham. They said he has “associates/contacts” in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District, and they would like people to alert police if they see him.


Police released this "wanted" poster in their search for Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., who was last seen with Graham. He is wanted for reckless driving and hasn't been charged with a crime in connection with Hannah Graham's disappearance. (Charlottesville police)
U-Va. officials said that Matthew is an employee of the school’s hospital, where he is a patient technician in the operating room, a position he’s had since Aug. 2012.

Charlottesville police Capt. Gary Pleasants said Monday that police have not had contact with Matthew since he voluntarily entered the police department Saturday afternoon requesting to speak with a lawyer. After speaking with a lawyer, Matthew left the area “at a high rate of speed,” pursued by two cars driven by Virginia State Police officers and FBI officials. Police said Matthew was seen driving so dangerously that the officials tailing the vehicle had to pull back. Police have since issued warrants on two counts of reckless driving against him.

Police believe Matthew was the last person to see Graham before she disappeared sometime around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 13. Police said that witnesses saw Matthew and Graham, 18, inside the Tempo restaurant and bar having drinks together just after 1 a.m. It is not clear how Graham gained entry to the bar, and Pleasants said police do not know if she had identification with her at the time.

Shortly after, Matthew left the area in his car, and police said they think Graham was with him but they are seeking witnesses and other evidence to confirm that theory.

Cecilia Rodi, owner of Rapture restaurant and bar, said that a bouncer working the doors that night saw Graham walking down the mall. Rodi said that the bouncer later saw Graham speaking with a large black man. Matthew is 6-foot-2 and weighs 270 pounds.

On Friday, police conducted a search of Matthew’s vehicle, a 1998 burnt orange Chrysler coupe, which was parked in front of his apartment. While police were there, an interaction with residents of the complex led police to seek a search warrant for Matthew’s apartment while he was inside, Pleasants said.

Forensics technicians have not completed DNA analysis of evidence found inside the apartment, Pleasants said.

Graham was reported missing on Sunday, Sept. 14 at about 4:30 p.m. About an hour later, Charlottesville police informed U-Va. police about the case, Pleasants said.

Graham, of Fairfax County, had been drinking and socializing with friends on Sept. 12, and at some point after midnight she headed outside and apparently started walking in the wrong direction. She texted friends that she was disoriented, but she ultimately found her way to the downtown mall, which she recognized. It was there, police said, that Matthew approached her and put his arm around her. Video shows the two walking toward the eastern end of the mall, but the trail goes cold after the two were at Tempo.

Business owners along the downtown mall said they have pressed city officials to install cameras along the mall to cut down on shoplifters and drug dealing, cameras they said might have aided police in Graham’s case.

“We’ve been asking this city for five years,” said Joan Fenton, the owner of Quilts Unlimited. “The city council has refused on civil liberties grounds and privacy issues.”

Fenton said that the cameras also could be a deterrent for crimes that occur on the open-air pedestrian area. Only two businesses with cameras had footage that has been released by police showing Graham walking along the mall.

Rodi, 42, the owner of Rapture, said that her business does not have exterior cameras. She said that she’d support a city-maintained surveillance system that could have been used to help find Graham.

“When I was 19, I had a friend who disappeared after a party one night,” Rodi said of Tammy Haas, whose body was found days later in a ditch. “Her mom still asks, ‘What happened to Tammy?’ There’s still unanswered questions.”

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.



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