A former girlfriend of Jesse Matthew, the Virginia man who faces charges of raping and killing multiple women, says he was raped himself as a child.
Matthew’s lawyers are asking a judge to consider Matthew’s difficult upbringing ahead of his sentencing this week for a 2005 sexual assault. Matthew is currently awaiting trial in the killings of college students Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington. Graham’s disappearance last year prompted a national search for the attacker.
Matthew was arrested in Texas, and authorities say DNA from the Graham case links him to the murder of Harrington and the 2005 attack of a woman in Fairfax County, Virginia.
In June, Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, was convicted of the Fairfax assault. He is set to be sentenced on Friday in that case and could be sentenced to life in prison.
The ex-girlfriend’s letter was made public Tuesday. Her full name was not included in the letter. It said Matthew was sexually abused by at least three different people.
The woman, who said she dated the man known to his friends as L.J. from 2003 to 2005 after meeting him at Christopher Newport University, said he “was sexually abused by at least three different individuals (that I’m aware of) through his elementary school years. One individual in particular raped him on several occasions and forced L.J. to keep it a secret. I have no doubt this repeated sexual trauma during his developmental years played a key role in the allegations against him.”
Matthew would become despondent if the assaults came up in conversation. She said she thought he sought therapy once or twice, but couldn’t afford to keep going to sessions.
In another letter, Matthew's mother, Debra Carr, begged for mercy from the judge.
Carr wrote that "Jesse has always shown respect to everyone around him regardless if he knew you or not."
Other family members said they can't reconcile the Matthew they knew — a state champion wrestler and football player who earned a full scholarship to Liberty University with a demeanor described as a teddy bear — with the allegations that he is a serial sexual predator.
"I still can't come to terms with how such a loving generous outgoing person could do such things," wrote his sister, Latasha Matthew. "I am stuck for words."
A nine-page sentencing memorandum filed by public defender Dawn Butorac doesn’t ask for a specific prison term for Matthew. It only asks the judge to consider his upbringing and the fact he’s a first-time offender.
Butorac declined to comment on the letters filed with the sentencing memorandum, which appeared to be the first mention that Matthew may have been sexually assaulted as a child.
Prosecutors have not yet said whether they will ask for a life sentence. When Matthew pleaded guilty to the charges in June, he did so by way of an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit guilt but acknowledged the government had sufficient evidence to convict him. The guilty plea removed the jury from its role in recommending a sentence. The sentence is solely up to Judge David Schell.
On Wednesday, Matthew faces a pretrial hearing in Albemarle County in connection with the Harrington and Graham killings. If convicted of Graham's murder, Matthew could face the death penalty.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.