Fairfax, Va. – Jesse Matthew, who was charged with murder in University of Virginia student Hannah Graham’s death, on Wednesday ceded that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him of abduction, sexual assault and attempted murder in a different, decade-old crime, a Virginia prosecutor said.
In a Fairfax, Virginia, courtroom, Matthew entered an Alford plea in connection to the 2005 case, which means he does not admit to a criminal act but acknowledges the prosecution has enough evidence to win the case.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh says he considers Matthew’s action equal to a guilty plea. Morrogh said the prosecution couldn’t have stopped Matthew from entering an Alford plea and no deal was made with the defense to secure a lesser punishment.
“The defendant pled guilty to all of the charges, which means he faces the full range of punishment,” he said.
In November, Matthew pleaded not guilty to the three charges tied to the September 24, 2005, incident in Fairfax, a city 20 miles west of Washington.
Authorities say a 26-year-old woman there was returning from a grocery store when someone grabbed her from behind and sexually assaulted her.
“We saw her purse on the front sidewalk,” said neighbor Stacey Simkins. “He had already dragged her behind our units to the dark pool area.”
The FBI later indicated that “the offender was scared away by a passerby.”
A Fairfax County grand jury had indicted him in October in Graham’s case, two days after authorities found what turned out to be the University of Virginia sophomore’s skull and bones on an abandoned property 8 miles from where she was last seen.
The 18-year-old went missing before dawn on September 13 after a night out in Charlottesville. Matthew was taken into custody 11 days later about 1,300 miles away on a beach in Galveston County, Texas.
In February, prosecutors said Matthew would be charged with first-degree murder. Then, last month, he was served with a new indictment charging him with capital murder after Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford presented new forensic evidence to the grand jury in pursuit of the increased charge.
Matthew has yet to stand trial in Graham’s case. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death, given the capital murder charge.