Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Va. Murderer Gets Four |Life Sentences in Deal

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CN) - Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. will receive four consecutive life sentences in prison after pleading guilty to the abduction and murder of two Virginia university students.

As a result of his plea deal with Albemarle County prosecutors, Matthew, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison for sexually assaulting a foreign exchange student in Fairfax Va., will no longer face capital murder charges for causing the deaths of Morgan Harrington, 20, a Virginia Tech student, and Hannah Graham, 18, who was attending the University of Virginia when she disappeared.

Matthew waived his right to appeal his sentence and will not qualify for release from prison.

Prosecutors will reserve the right to revisit death penalty charges in the future, the Commonwealth's attorney, Robert Tracci, said.

Tracci announced the plea deal Monday, but declined to release any details of the case.

Matthew, who pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder and two counts of intent to defile, will serve the maximum penalty allowed by law, Tracci said.

Matthew did not make a statement during the hearing and showed no visible signs of emotion.

When Judge Cheryl Higgins asked if he understood the charges and that he was waiving his right to appeal, Matthew simply answered, "yes, ma'am."

The hour-long hearing on Wednesday at which the plea was entered was marked by victim impact statements from Graham and Harrington's parents.

Dan Harrington, Morgan's father, called Matthews' actions outrageous and wicked.

"We miss her every second of every day. The happily ever after future we had envisioned will never happen," Harrington said.

"The brutality of Morgan's murder hurts us every day," Harrington said. "We have suffered and we are wounded but we have not let Jesse Matthew destroy or define us. How could he? Why would he?"

Hannah's mother, Susan Graham, described her daughter as a straight A, dean's list student and said that she missed snuggling with her daughter on the couch and having tea.

Graham said that the video evidence released in 2014, showing her daughter leaving a restaurant with Matthew just before her disappearance would stay in their family's minds forever.

Matthew's attorney, Douglas Ramseur, declined to speculate on his client's motive or to release the details of the crimes, though Graham's mother said that the crime was an act of perversion.

"Matthew dumped her like a bag of trash to be picked over by buzzards," Graham said.

"[Hannah] was a heroine who changed the world in a way other than what was expected-she helped capture a serial rapist and murderer who had been hiding in Charlottesville in plain sight for years," Graham said.

Law enforcement officials say Graham was last seen with Matthew on Sept. 13, 2014. Surveillance footage shows the two leaving a Charlottesville, Va. bar with his arm around her shoulder.

DNA evidence found under the victims' fingernails in that case linked Matthew to the Graham and Harrington murders, according to court testimony in the Fairfax case.

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