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June trial set for man charged in US student slaying

February 18, 2015

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) — A man charged with abducting and killing a British-born University of Virginia student watched by video feed from jail Wednesday as a judge scheduled his trial for June.

Jesse Matthew Jr. said little during the 20-minute hearing. The court appearance was Matthew’s first since a county grand jury indicted him on a first-degree murder charge Feb. 2. Matthew, 33, also is charged with abduction with intent to defile, or sexually assault, 18-year-old Hannah Graham.

Graham, who moved to Virginia from England at age 5, disappeared after a night out with friends last September. Her remains were found in a rural area five weeks later.

As Albemarle County Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins was wrapping up Wednesday, Matthew frantically raised and waved his hand and said he needed to see his lawyer “sooner rather than later.” Defense attorney Jim Camblos assured Matthew he would get there right after the hearing.

Higgins scheduled the three-week jury trial to begin June 29. Prosecutor Denise Lunsford said she expects to call more than 50 witnesses. She said she will ask the judge to keep witness subpoenas sealed to prevent reporters from contacting them about the high-profile case.

Authorities say forensic evidence also has linked Matthew to their investigation of the 2009 disappearance and death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. Matthew has not been charged in that case, but the investigation is continuing.

Matthew faces up to life in prison if convicted in the Graham case. Lunsford has declined to say specifically why Matthew was not charged with capital murder, which is punishable by the death penalty.

According to police, Graham had dinner with friends Sept. 12 and later attended two off-campus parties. After leaving the last one alone, she texted a friend, saying she was lost.

In surveillance video, she can be seen walking unsteadily and running at times, past a pub and a service station and then onto a seven-block strip of bars, restaurants and shops. Another video captured her leaving a restaurant with Matthew, who had an arm around her.

Graham’s disappearance prompted a monthlong search that ended Oct. 18 when a Chesterfield County officer found her remains roughly six miles (10 kilometers) from the hayfield where Harrington’s body was found nearly five years earlier.

After police named Matthew a person of interest in Graham’s disappearance, he fled and was later apprehended on a beach in Texas.

Matthew previously had been accused of raping students at Liberty University and Christopher Newport University in 2002 and 2003. The cases were dropped after the women declined to press charges.

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