(CNN) -- Sgt. Dale Terry of the Chesterfield Sheriff's Department and his small search team were finishing up for the day when they made the discovery.
Behind an abandoned home -- just eight miles from where Hannah Graham was last seen -- they found a skull and bones scattered across a creek bed, he told a local television station.
Nearby was a pair of black pants, similar to ones Graham was wearing.
Could these be the remains of the University of Virginia student who disappeared five weeks ago?
- Jesse Matthew once lived 4 miles from where human remains were discovered
- Human remains found during search for Hannah Graham
Authorities will have to await forensic tests to determine that. The Albemarle County Police Department said it didn't know how long the results will take.
'God wanted us to find what we found'
"I do believe God wanted us to find what we found," Terry said. "I don't know how else to explain it other than something inside me told me to just continue to look."
After Saturday's discovery, the weekend's remaining public searches were canceled so that authorities could focus their attention "on recent evidence," according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Furthermore, police now consider the Graham case "a death investigation," said County Police Chief Steve Sellers.
"Today's discovery is a significant development, and we have a great deal of work ahead of us," Sellers said. "We cannot and we will not jump to any conclusions."
Forensic psychologist Mike Banks told CNN affiliate WTVR that forensic work could take some time.
"If it is Hannah Graham, 100%, then at least they have their child home," he said, referring to Graham's parents, John and Susan Graham.
One detained so far
Graham was last spotted on several surveillance cameras, in Charlottesville's Downtown Mall area. The footage showed her leaving the Tempo Bar around 2 a.m. on September 13, followed by a man.
The man, identified by police as 32-year-old Jesse Matthew, is the only person who's been detained in connection with the disappearance. He's charged with abduction with the intent to defile.
Matthew has also been linked by forensic evidence to the case of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who was last seen hitchhiking along U.S. 29 outside of Charlottesville in October 2009. She was found dead on a nearby farm the following January.