Sunday, October 19, 2014
A police search team found human remains yesterday that may be Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of Virginia who has been missing for 35 days. The remains were found in a dry creek bed behind a vacant house located on an abandoned property along Old Lynchburg Road in southern Albemarle County. They were not buried and not far from the road. The location is approximately 11 miles from the Downtown Mall in Charlottsville, Virginia where she was last seen.
Police collected the remains and transported them to the medical examiner’s office in Richmond.
I suspect police found little, if any soft tissue, and the bones may have been scattered by wild animals complicating a complete recovery of the bones. It’s often difficult to determine the cause of death from skeletal remains unless, for example, the person was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. Knives or sharp instruments can leave marks on bones and if the hyoid bone in the neck is fractured, the cause of death may be manual strangulation.
If insect larvae is present, it may be possible to approximate the time of death to sometime within a 24-hour-period on a certain date.
The sex of skeletal remains can be determined by the width of the hips.
The reports I’ve read do not mention if any clothing or personal effects were recovered. Positive identification will be obtained by DNA testing.
Police have a suspect in custody. His name is Jesse Leroy Matthew, Jr. He was the last person seen with Graham before she disappeared. He fled the area after police sought to interrogate him and was eventually arrested in Galveston, TX. He has been charged with abduction with intent to defile Graham.
Matthew has been linked by DNA evidence to the death of Morgan Harrington five years ago. She was a student at Virginia Tech. Her body was recovered in a rural area a few miles from the abandoned house on Old Lynchburg Road three months after she disappeared.
Matthew is a native to the area. He lived with his mother in a residence off Old Lynchburg Road.
He also has been linked by DNA evidence to a 2012 rape in Fairfax, Virginia. The victim survived the rape when a passerby startled the attacker and he fled.
He also was accused of raping a student at Liberty University when he was a student there in 2000-2003, but she withdrew the accusation.
He subsequently transferred to Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia where he was identified in a police investigation file as a suspect in a sexual assault, however, no charges were filed.
There are several missing women in the area who are listed as endangered.
I imagine the police are investigating Matthew as a suspect in their disappearances.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 4.