The suspect in the disappearance of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham was accused of sexual assaults at two Virginia colleges he attended, and he left each school shortly after each allegation, according to school officials.
The alleged assaults occurred within an 11-month span from 2002 to 2003 as Jesse L. “LJ” Matthew Jr. moved from Liberty University in Lynchburg to Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Police investigated each report, but neither resulted in a criminal case, according to the Lynchburg prosecutor and a review of online court records in Newport News.
Matthew’s attorney, James L. Camblos III, declined to comment on the allegations, which happened more than a decade ago, were investigated and went nowhere. “The events occurred in 2002 and 2003,” Camblos said Wednesday. “I am not aware of the particular details of either event, therefore I cannot comment on them.”
Matthew, 32, is now accused of abducting Graham, 18, who went missing Sept. 13 after she was seen walking with Matthew in downtown Charlottesville. Police have charged Matthew with abduction with intent to defile, meaning they believe he intended to sexually assault her. Police have not disclosed their evidence for that charge. The search for Graham, now more than two weeks old, has not been successful.
Christopher Newport confirmed the sexual assault allegation against Matthew on Wednesday in response to a public-records request by The Washington Post. School spokeswoman Lori Jacobs said records indicate that Matthew was accused of a sexual assault on campus on Sept. 7, 2003, which campus police investigated. Jacobs declined to say what action was taken after the allegation or how the case was resolved. Matthew left the university less than a week later.
Howard E. Gwynn, commonwealth’s attorney for Newport News, said it is not possible for him to know whether an allegation from 2003 was brought to his office for review. Had a criminal case been filed, it would appear on the electronic court case system, but otherwise, he said, “there’s no way for me to let you know whether we were told. They could have talked to someone in my office who is no longer here, if they talked to us. That was 11 years ago.”
Gwynn also said he has not been asked by any law enforcement agency about the Christopher Newport report.
Paul S. Trible Jr., president of Christopher Newport since 1996, declined to be interviewed Wednesday evening.
In response to a telephone message left at his home, Jacobs sent a reporter a copy of the public university’s brief statement on Matthew and the alleged incident in 2003. Trible, the spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail, “wishes he could say more.”
The Christopher Newport allegation occurred less than a year after an Oct. 17, 2002, sexual assault allegation against Matthew at Liberty University.
Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Doucette said that Matthew was the subject of a sexual assault investigation by Lynchburg police in 2002, when he was a student at Liberty. Another student accused Matthew of raping her on campus, Doucette said, and the case went to Lynchburg prosecutors. But Doucette said the woman declined to press charges and no independent witnesses could be found to corroborate her account, so no charges were filed.
David M. Corry, Liberty University’s general counsel, said that Matthew attended the evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg from Aug. 14, 2000, to Oct. 17, 2002 — the same day as the sex assault report, which came in after 4 a.m.
Matthew played football and was a psychology major at both schools, university officials have confirmed.
The first court appearance for Matthew on an abduction charge in Graham’s case has been moved to Dec. 4, according to prosecutors. Matthew had been set to appear in Charlottesville General District Court on Thursday morning for the first court hearing related to Graham’s disappearance.
Camblos, Matthew’s attorney, said he requested a continuance in the case and waived a bond hearing, as it is unlikely that a judge would grant Matthew release on bond given the nature of the charge against him.
Although attorneys in the case are scheduled to go before a judge Thursday, Matthew is not expected to appear in court on the abduction charge.
Graham, of Fairfax County, has not been seen since the early morning hours of Sept. 13.
A hearing on misdemeanor reckless driving charges against Matthew is scheduled to go forward Thursday morning in Albemarle District Court, court filings show.
Matthew has been jailed since his arrest Sept. 24 on a beach near Galveston, Tex., where police say he fled after allegedly speeding away from a surveillance team Sept. 20 in Albemarle County. Matthew was being followed after he walked into Charlottesville police headquarters, asked for an attorney, then declined to answer questions and left.
Previously, police had searched his car and apartment in the Graham case.
The driving charges stem from alleged reckless driving to elude law enforcement. When a sheriff’s deputy encountered Matthew on the Texas beach — he was considered a fugitive then — authorities say he provided a false name and date of birth.
He was moved to Charlottesville on Friday, where he is being held without bond.
Virginia State Police have said his arrest showed a “forensic link” to the case of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who disappeared outside a concert at U-Va. in 2009. Her body was found more than three months later. No one has been charged, and police have not specified the link between the cases.
Nick Anderson contributed to this report.