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Jesse Matthew admits to murders of two college students as part of plea deal

Posted at 12:14 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 18:21:47-05

Charlottesville, Va. (WTKR and WTVR) — Jesse Matthew will serve four consecutive life sentences for the murders of two Virginia college students.

The former cab driver pleaded guilty to both murders as part of a deal entered in court Wednesday afternoon.

Matthew was charged in the deaths of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student, and Hannah Graham, who went to UVA.

Both of their families say they support the plea deal.

After the hearing, the victims' families read brief statements.

"Our overriding priority was that Matthew will never be able again to inflict his depravity on young women," Hannah's dad John Graham said.   "His evil deprived the world of a great talent, but Hannah's enduring gift to us all is that she enabled this wicked man to be apprehended and convicted.  She did change the world but at a terrible price."

Morgan's mom Gil Harrington said, "The finality and accountability that has been achieved today with this plea agreement will allow our family to redirect energy into healing and recovery.  Both are areas that we have neglected in our quest for justice for Morgan."

Matthew will not be eligible for early release or geriatric release as a condition of the deal.

Hannah GrahamHe will no longer face any chance of getting the death penalty, as he will no longer face a July capital murder trial for Graham’s murder. However, he will never again pose a threat to public safety, officials said.

Matthew faced the parents of Graham, an 18-year-old University of Virginia student, who went missing in September 2014. Authorities found her remains the next month on abandoned property eight miles from where the second-year college student was last seen.

morgan harringtonHe also faced the parents of Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, who went missing in October 2009 after attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville. Her remains were discovered on a nearby farm in January 2010. It was not until  2015 that a grand jury indicted Matthew on charges of first-degree murder and abduction with the intent to defile in the Harrington case.

Both families told WTVR they supported the plea. They entered statements in court, something which is rare in a plea deal, but which the families requested.

“This is not a celebratory time of time of fist-pumping joy,” Gil Harrington, Morgan’s mother said to WTVR. “Our daughter is still as dead as she was in 2009.”

“We have seen Morgan’s broken bones and cannot comprehend what one human could have so desperately needed to have hurt and murdered our daughter,” she said ahead of Matthew’s court appearance.

His admission comes 6.5 years after the Harrington’s first learned of their daughter’s demise.

For prosecutors, the plea deal is a win, said WTVR legal analyst Todd Stone.

“The expense and cost is so much more than money. It’s resources and man power in such a small prosecutor’s office,” he said. “They now will be able to focus on prosecuting things that they have. Perhaps preventing this from happening in the future.”

Last year, a judge sentenced Matthew to three life sentences for the 2005 sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in Fairfax, Virginia. The DNA in that case tied together all cases.

A series of Twitter posts Monday on the page of “Help Save the Next Girl,” an organization founded by Harrington’s parents, expressed gratitude for the plea deal.

“There are no winners here,” mother Gil Harrington told CNN affiliate WVIR. “You know, our daughters are still dead. But then, I corrected myself, that actually the winner is the community, and maybe that’s what the abstract of justice means.”

Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci did not have anything to say ahead of the hearing "in the interest of protecting the integrity of the judicial process.”

Related:

Jesse Matthew gets three life sentences for 2005 rape and attempted murder of Fairfax woman

Jesse Matthew formally charged with abduction and murder of Morgan Harrington

Search Warrants: No blood found in DNA from Jesse Matthew’s car

Defense wants judge removed in Hannah Graham murder trial