Police suggested Saturday that they have found the body of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
Human remains were found around noon at an abandoned property in Albemarle County, Va., the county that surrounds Charlottesville, where Graham disappeared 35 days ago, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said at an evening news conference. The body had not been identified officially as Graham, pending forensic tests.
“Countless hours, thousands of hours have been spent by law enforcement and volunteers in an effort to find Hannah,” Longo said. “We think they have proved their worth.”
Longo said he made the ìdifficultî phone call to Graham’s parents, John and Susan Graham of Alexandria, Va., “to share with them this preliminary discovery.”
The announcement was made by the joint police units investigating the studentís disappearance, which had made national headlines since she vanished early Sept. 13.
“This, sadly, is now a death investigation,” said Col. Steve Sellers of the Albermarle County Police.
“Today’s discovery is a significant development,” Sellers said. “And we have a great deal of work ahead of us. We cannot and will not jump to any conclusions in regards to today’s discovery.”
Friends last saw Graham the evening of Sept. 12. The second-year, straight-A student vanished in the early hours of Sept. 13 after leaving an off-campus party.
She was seen on Charlottesville businesses’ surveillance video, and witnesses saw her with Jesse LeRoy Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville. Matthew, a suspect in Graham’s disappearance, was arrested Sept. 24 as he camped on a beach near Galveston, Texas.
He now is in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, charged with abduction with intent to defile, a felony that under Virginia law compels suspects to submit to DNA testing.
Police asked for any information from witnesses from the Albermarle County and asked if a person fitting Matthew’s description was seen in the area.
Matthew also has been linked to the 2009 death of a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, Morgan Harrington, who disappeared after a concert in Charlottesville.
Gannett News Service