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The suspect in the abduction of a University of Virginia student has been linked to another area college student who was killed nearly five years ago, Virginia State Police said.
Forensic evidence links Jesse Matthew Jr., who police believe abducted 18-year-old Hannah Graham from a Charlottesville, Va., mall earlier this month, to the 2009 disappearance of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, CBS affiliate WTVR reported, citing sources close to the investigation.
"Last week, the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville, Va., provided a significant break in [the Harrington] case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue," Virginia State Police said in a statement. "There is still a great deal of work to be done in regards to this investigation and we appreciate the public’s patience as we move forward."
Harrington, who was 20, was last seen attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville in Oct. 17, 2009, where she became separated from friends. Her remains were found three months later on a farm 10 miles outside of Charlottesville. While police released few details about Harrington's death, her family said in 2010 she had been kidnapped, raped and murdered.
The station did not specify what the forensic link was, but said evidence belonging to Matthew matched material collected during the Harrington investigation. Authorities believe the evidence shows Harrington had some sort of contact with Matthew.
In 2012, the FBI released a sketch of the man believed to have had contact with Harrington, and said her disappearance was linked to a 2005 sex assault in Fairfax.
Graham was last seen in the wee hours of Sept. 13 at an outdoor mall in Charlottesville with a man matching Matthew's description.
Five days later, police searched Matthew’s car and apartment after studying surveillance video and talking to witnesses. The next day, Matthew bolted while Virginia State Police were watching him.
Matthew was arrested in Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 24, after police were alerted to a suspicious man camping on the beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, approximately 1,300 miles from Charlottesville.
Police there say they are searching for Graham there as well.
"We're going to do whatever we can to assist Virginia to locate that young lady," Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said last week, adding that deputies will start searching in the area where Matthew was arrested and branch out.
The Virginia State Police released the following statement Monday:
"For the past five years, the Virginia State Police has been aggressively pursuing the investigation into the disappearance and death of 20-year-old Morgan D. Harrington of Roanoke, Va. Last week, the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville, Va., provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue. There is a still a great deal of work to be done in regards to this investigation and we appreciate the public’s patience as we move forward.
Anyone with new information concerning the Harrington investigation is encouraged to contact the Virginia State Police at 434-352-3467 or the Jefferson Area Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.
Meanwhile, state police continues to dedicate the necessary resources to assist the Charlottesville Police Department through the course of its investigation and with their efforts to locate Hannah Graham. In fact, right now, the public’s focus needs to remain on helping Charlottesville Police locate and bring Hannah Graham home.
We will have no further comment nor will we be doing any on-camera interviews concerning our ongoing investigation."
There are two other cold case disappearances in central Virginia within the last five years. Samantha Anne Clarke, 19, was last seen in Orange, Va., shortly after midnight on Sept. 13, 2010. Dashad Laquinn Smith, who was also 19 and transgender, disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012.