CHARLOTTESVILLE — The police came at 4:41 a.m. and knocked on the door, waking up Jesse L. Matthew Jr., who padded barefoot to the entry of his apartment here. A pit bull barked inside.
“What’s up?” Matthew asked. Police responded that they wanted to talk.
“About what?” he asked.
It was Sept. 19, 2014, six days since anyone had seen or heard from Hannah Graham, a tall auburn-haired University of Virginia sophomore. Charlottesville police — and the community — had been working feverishly to locate Graham, 18, with a national television audience watching.
Testimony in Albemarle County Circuit Court and court documents released this week offered new details about the investigation that led police to Matthew’s apartment that early morning. Matthew now faces the possibility of the death penalty on charges related to Graham’s disappearance and death. Detectives on the Graham case said they also found evidence that linked Matthew to the case of another young woman who mysteriously vanished in Charlottesville in 2009 and was later found dead.
Police had arrived at Matthew’s apartment with a search warrant for his 1998 orange Chrysler coupe, which detectives had observed in surveillance footage near the last place Graham was seen alive.
Graham’s closest friends had told police that the teenager had been at a restaurant in Charlottesville that night, and during a raucous dinner, Graham drank and joined her friends dancing in a conga line. Graham later went to a party at a nearby apartment and was last seen by friends there around 12:15 a.m. Sept. 13.
Matthew also had been out enjoying that Friday night on the downtown mall, a pedestrian promenade lined with restaurants and bars, according to court documents. A photograph captured Matthew at the Blue Light Grill at 12:05 a.m. He used a debit card to pay a $22.95 tab at the Tempo restaurant at 12:18 a.m.
At 12:44 a.m., video footage shows Graham appearing disoriented while walking around McGrady’s Irish pub on Preston Avenue. Twelve minutes later, Graham sent a text message to friends indicating that she was lost.
Surveillance cameras then caught Graham heading east, running and walking briskly toward the downtown mall.
Video footage at 1 a.m. showed Graham walking near Fellini’s, a quaint Italian spot next to the mall. In an affidavit signed by Charlottesville police officer Lisa Best, the detective wrote that a witness saw Graham walking by herself before she was approached by a tall black man with a scraggly beard and dreadlocks — later identified as Matthew.
Graham’s last known communication with friends came at 1:05 a.m., when she sent a Snapchat message to her former French teacher at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County. But because Snapchat messages are deleted as soon as they are received, the contents of Graham’s message are not retrievable.
The witness who saw Matthew and Graham together told police that she felt the interaction seemed suspicious, and she and a friend decided to follow Matthew and Graham into Tempo, on the downtown mall. Best wrote that the witness and her friend sat next to Matthew and Graham at the bar and watched him buy drinks using a debit card. Best wrote that Matthew spent $15.30 on drinks at the bar on Sept. 13 at 1:10 a.m.
At 1:18 a.m., cameras at the Red Pump restaurant a block north of Tempo showed Matthew and Graham walking arm in arm.
“Jesse Leroy Matthew, Jr., was the last reported person to be in the company of Hannah Graham,” police wrote in an affidavit. “It was reasonable to believe that Graham left the restaurant with Matthew and was in his vehicle when they left the area.”
When police finally caught up to Matthew on Sept. 19, detective James Mooney told Matthew that they wanted to talk.
“Have you heard about the missing girl we’ve been asked to investigate?” Mooney asked.
“Yeah,” Matthew replied.
Mooney then told Matthew about the video showing him walking with Graham.
“We’d like to figure out what happened down there, where she may have gone, those types of things,” Mooney said.
“Like I was really drunk,” Matthew said.
“You don’t remember that?” Mooney said.
Matthew replied that he remembered being at the downtown mall.
“We saw you drive off in your car, you weren’t too drunk, you were driving fine,” Mooney said.
Detective Lee Gibson then told Matthew: “We’ve got to hear your side, especially since you’re down there.”
“Let me get some socks,” Matthew said.
When he returned, Matthew and the detectives stepped out front and continued talking.
“Did she leave with you? Was she in the car?” Mooney asked.
“Umm,” Matthew replied.
“Because we’re going to find that out and I’d rather hear that from you,” Mooney said. “After she left with you, where did she end up?”
“What are you talking about?” Matthew said. “Should I talk to a lawyer?”
As police spoke to Matthew, Louisa County Sheriff’s Office detective Buck Garner and his seven-year-old bloodhound Shaker circled the apartment complex. The dog had found Graham’s scent at the front and back door to Matthew’s residence, on the inside of the passenger door of his car and near the dumpster outside. Earlier in the week, they had traced Graham’s scent to an industrial site about a mile and a half from Tempo, where the dog had discovered “a pool” of Graham’s scent that indicated “something powerful happened here.”
That September morning, Mooney told Matthew that he was not under arrest and that it was up to him to decide whether he wanted to talk with a lawyer.
“Then I’m going back in my house,” Matthew said.
Before a tow truck arrived to take Matthew’s car, he was adamant that he retrieve papers from inside his glove box. Matthew then told police that the documents were “paperwork I need because I’m going on vacation and I’m getting my passport.”
When police asked about the trip, Matthew told them he was going to a friend’s wedding in Cancun, Mexico, in November.
Later that morning, police seized Matthew’s apartment, searching for evidence related to Graham’s disappearance, including her Citizen Eco-Drive watch, her iPhone 5s in a pink case and the midriff top and black pants she was wearing that night. Police also found a cigarette butt in his vehicle that they say allowed detectives to link his DNA to the 2009 death and disappearance of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who went missing after a Metallica concert in Charlottesville.
The next day, Matthew walked into the Charlottesville police station and asked to speak with a lawyer. After the meeting, a police surveillance team trailed Matthew but lost him after he sped away in a light blue 1997 Nissan Sentra. Charlottesville police then issued a “wanted” poster for his arrest.
After a nationwide manhunt, Matthew was apprehended four days later on a beach in Galveston, Tex., about 395 miles from the Mexico border.
Graham’s body was found on Oct. 18, 2014, near in a wooded area on an abandoned property outside Charlottesville. Graham’s parents, John and Sue, later visited the scene, where autumn leaves of amber, crimson and gold shaded the ground below.
“We just wanted to see where she was,” John Graham said at the time. “It was very peaceful.”