CHARLOTTESVILLE — Police are asking property owners in this city and throughout nearby rural Albemarle County to look for any signs of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, hoping that they can locate her after nearly two weeks of searching.
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo said during a news conference Thursday that searchers have combed through most of this college town and are now moving south into surrounding farms and woodland. He also urged real estate agents and others to look in and around vacant homes and buildings in an effort to find the 18-year-old, who has been missing since Sept. 13.
Longo said Graham had an iPhone 5S with a pink case that has not been found, and he said people should report anything they see that seems out of the ordinary on their properties, including unexpected tire tracks, clothing or other evidence that might help police find her.
“We have no idea where she is, despite our best efforts,” Longo said. “Everyone realizes the more time that goes by, the more difficult this is going to come for everyone. I can’t lose hope until I have to, until I need to, until it’s appropriate to transition this into some other type of operation. I have hope, and I think Hannah’s mom and dad have hope.”
Longo said in an interview Thursday that he wants anyone who knows Jesse L. “LJ” Matthew Jr., 32, who is charged with abducting Graham, to help identify spots that Matthew frequented. Police asked for help finding places where Matthew likes to fish, for example. A reward of $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the safe return of the 18-year-old U-Va. sophomore from Fairfax County.
Charlottesville investigators arrived Thursday in Galveston, Tex., where Matthew appeared in court after he was arrested on a beach Wednesday afternoon. Longo said Charlottesville police will not approach Matthew about the case because he has invoked his right to consult with an attorney. Local authorities said they would try to speak with him late Thursday or early Friday, and they were searching his car for evidence.
Matthew is the last person known to have seen Graham, and he has been charged with abduction with intent to sexually assault her. Police have not detailed what evidence they have against him. Matthew was taken into custody Wednesday in Texas after a widespread manhunt, and police said he will be extradited to Charlottesville to face charges in her disappearance.
Early Thursday, Matthew appeared briefly in a Texas courtroom, where a judge denied bond and read Matthew his rights. Matthew declined a court-
appointed attorney and waived an extradition hearing.
Charlottesville lawyer James L. Camblos III, who is representing Matthew, said that he spoke to Matthew by phone late Wednesday, after his arrest.
“He sounded okay considering the circumstances,” Camblos said. “He called me from the jail and, under the circumstances, he sounded pretty good.”
Longo said it is unclear why Matthew was in the Galveston area, a popular summer destination on the Gulf of Mexico southeast of Houston and about 1,300 miles from Charlottesville. A Galveston County deputy found Matthew after the sheriff’s office received a call from a woman who saw Matthew on the beach — in Gilchrist, on the Bolivar Peninsula — and found him suspicious.
The deputy noticed that Matthew had set up a tent on the beach, sheriff’s Capt. Barry Cook said. Matthew initially gave a false name, but the deputy ran the license plates on Matthew’s car and discovered that he was wanted in Virginia, Cook said. Matthew was taken into custody without incident.
Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said Thursday that deputies have examined the car and surrounding sand dunes and will widen their search, but that they have no indication of where Graham might be.
“This individual has a 1,300-mile track,” the sheriff said, referring to Matthew’s trip from Charlottesville to east Texas. “There’s a lot of area to look at.”
It is unclear what ties, if any, Matthew might have to Texas. He grew up in the Charlottesville area and attended two Virginia universities — Liberty from 2000 to 2002 and then Christopher Newport in 2003. He played football at both schools and left both schools. Officials at the school would not discuss the circumstances of his departure, citing privacy rules.
Also on Thursday, the owner of the restaurant where Graham was last seen said that Graham never entered the establishment with her alleged abductor, instead waiting outside for him while he purchased drinks.
Brice Cunningham, owner of the upscale Tempo Restaurant in Charlottesville, said he saw Matthew for the first time at the restaurant late on Friday, Sept. 12, and then again during the early hours of Sept. 13. Cunningham said that Matthew drank shots of bourbon with two other customers about 11:45 p.m., and that he then saw Matthew enjoying music on the restaurant’s dance floor.
Cunningham said that Matthew, who was not a regular at the bar, appeared to be having a good time that evening.
“He wasn’t aggressive, he wasn’t unpleasant,” said Cunningham, 43. “He seemed friendly and was talking to people.”
Cunningham said that Matthew left the bar briefly and returned just after 1 a.m., closed a tab for two beers at 1:10 a.m. and then left sometime after that. He said that Tempo staffers, who were checking identification to ensure that patrons were at least 21 years old, saw Graham outside the bar and thought she appeared intoxicated. They saw her leave with Matthew on foot.
“None of my staff saw her inside that night,” Cunningham said in an interview Thursday. In a statement, Cunningham said that Graham was not served alcohol. “She was, however, noticed by the door person outside the restaurant at that time, and seen leaving with Matthew shortly thereafter.”
Graham had been seen on surveillance video walking with Matthew shortly after 1 a.m. on the city’s Downtown Mall, headed in the direction of Tempo. Friends said her last text to them was at 1:06 a.m., just minutes before Matthew got to Tempo. The owner’s account suggests that Graham arrived at the restaurant with Matthew, waited for him outside, and then left with him.
The account differs from what police have said about Graham’s interactions with Matthew at Tempo. Longo said Thursday that his investigators “have at least one witness statement that puts Hannah Graham inside the bar with Mr. Matthew. You’re always evaluating witness statements in an ongoing investigation, and we will be talking to folks again, but we have that statement.”
An extensive search has turned up almost no trace of Graham after she was seen at Tempo. Police have collected evidence from Matthew’s car and apartment, and Longo said that prosecutors decided to press charges against Matthew after reviewing evidence from experts at the crime lab in Richmond. The charge against Matthew suggests that police believe Matthew took Graham against her will — or while she was in a state that left her unable to consent.
Those close to Matthew, who is 6-foot-2 and weighs 270 pounds, have said they know him as a “gentle giant” who prayed at a local church, worked at the U-Va. hospital caring for patients and volunteered at the private Covenant School as a football coach.
Flaherty and Jouvenal reported from Washington.