Police release photo of Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., ‘person of interest’ in Hannah Graham’s disappearance

Posted at 2:20 PM, Sep 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-22 19:18:56-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Police have issued a wanted poster and released the photo of Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr.

Matthew, 32, is wanted for misdemeanor reckless driving, however Charlottesville Police have called him a Person of Interest in the disappearance of 18-year-old University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

“I believe Jesse Matthew was the last person she was seen with before she vanished off the face of the earth,” Charlottesville Police  Tim Longo said during a Sunday news conference. “It’s been a week and we can’t find her. It’s been a week and someone has got to know something.”

Longo said Matthew walked into the police station Saturday and asked for a lawyer. After Matthew spoke with a lawyer, Longo said he left the station, got into a vehicle with another person and drove off.

“State and federal authorities who were overtly monitoring his movement saw him get into a car and leave a location to Albemarle County at a high rate of speed,  driving in a matter that was reckless and placed others in danger,” Chief Longo said.

As police gathered additional evidence Monday, roommates of the prime person of interest in the disappearance of second year Uva student Hannah Graham, moved out of the apartment they shared.

"Mostly I  am just shocked."

Matthew's landlady, Francies Lee-Vandell said her relationship with Matthew wasn't always pleasant,  but something changed when she talked to him last week.

"I talked to him Thursday night; it was a very pleasant conversation,"she said. "I almost thought it was a different person."

She said that she thought he was on his way up after just getting promoted as a nursing assistant at the University of Virginia Medical Center.  Now she questioned how well she actually knew Matthew.

"I don't know how to recognize a problem, and I feel very sorry that I can't pick up on things like that," said Lee-Vandell.

Longo said he would not speculate on why Matthew sped off, but said investigators are “aggressively pursuing his location.”

"Matthew has associates/contacts in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington D.C., " the wanted poster indicated. "If you have information as to his whereabouts please call the Charlottesville Police Department or the 24-hour tip line at 434-295-3851."

Volunteers search Charlottesville for clues

Virginia Department of Emergency Management Search and Rescue Coordinator Mark Eggeman said over 1,200 people came out to search for Graham in Charlottesville over the weekend.

The massive search began Saturday and continued until 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Eggeman said officials spent two days planning for the massive volunteer effort in partnership with the university.

"So with some very talented University of Virginia students, they set us up, with very little effort, a online registration system," Eggeman said.

As a result, Eggeman said almost 2,000 people signed up to search for Graham. Those members of the community and beyond, some of which traveled a great distance, joined in the search.

Among the volunteers looking for Graham is the family of Alexis Murphy. Murphy was the high school student from nearby Nelson County who disappeared last year. A man was later arrested and convicted for her abduction and murder, even though her body was never found.

"They gave us two glorious days. Yesterday was a good day," Eggeman said. "We covered a tremendous amount of ground. By the end of yesterday, we had already covered about 65 percent of the city."

By the time crews finished Sunday, Eggeman estimated crews had covered about 85 percent of the city.

Officials said that after the weekend search wrapped up, they would revert back to using trained search and rescue teams. He said those crews would conduct a more limited, but more focused search.

Eggeman said that the search effort was one of the finest examples of collaboration he has seen during his 30-year career.

Not far from where the evidence was gathering Monday, the mother of murdered Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington decorated the bridge where her daughter was last seen almost five years ago after leaving a Metallica concert at the John Paul Jones Arena.  Her killer has not been caught, though his DNA was linked to a 2005 rape  in Northern Virginia.

"This is something I know how to do," Gil Harrington said, "I know how to anoint this bridge this is my version of shouting from the rooftops."

"I want everyone in this community to know about Hannah, know that she's missing and call information in and help police find her and bring her back to her family," she said.

Harrington has reached out to the Graham family but has not spoken to them.

Reward Offered 

A $50,000 reward is now being offered in hopes of soliciting tips that could lead police to Graham. The City of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia are each offering $10,000. In addition, some local residents and businesses have contributed $30,000 to the reward.

All surveillance videos can be seen here. All reports filed on this case can be found here.

This is a developing story. Watch CBS 6 News starting at 11 p.m. for Melissa Hipolit's additional report on this story and the case.