CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – On Monday Charlottesville Police released a wanted poster for Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., saying he has two warrants out for reckless driving.
Matthew’s face is shown, and the poster states that the police department would also like to speak with him regarding the disappearance of missing 18-year-old University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, who hasn’t been seen since early Saturday, Sept. 13. The poster has stirred debate.
Police said Graham was last seen with Matthew on surveillance camera, as they left the Tempo restaurant in downtown Charlottesville. Witnesses said Matthew bought drinks.
Matthew, age 32, voluntarily showed up to the police station and asked for a lawyer, a week after Graham was last seen. He showed up later in the day after a European-based tabloid magazine published his name and place of employment.
The day prior to that police had obtained a warrant and seized his vehicle to search. There was enough initial evidence that then led to a search warrant of Matthew’s apartment in Hessian Hills.
Police Chief Tim Longo said that after Matthew spoke with a lawyer, he left the station, got into a vehicle with another person and drove off.
Federal investigators were keeping a close eye on Matthew, Longo said.
"Overtly monitoring his movement, saw him get into a car, leave a location in Albemarle County at a high rate of speed, driving in a manner that was reckless and put others in danger," Longo said at a press conference Sunday.
Police did not turn on their blue lights or initiate a pursuit. The Virginia State Police ended surveillance when he sped off, they said.
Mixed opinions on police tactics
The law enforcement decision to charge Matthew with reckless driving and put his face on a wanted poster has struck debate among many people.
“It's gonna be hard for him to get jobs and it's not like he's been prosecuted or they have evidence on this guy yet,” said Maderio Vanable; a Charlottesville resident who does not know Matthew personally.
Vanable questioned if the law enforcement's aggressive pursuit of Matthew is the right approach.
Defense attorney Scott Goodman says police must know something about Matthew that they are discussing. “Right now they are sure this is the person that has the information they need to lead them to Hannah Graham,” he said.
Goodman said the decision not to pull Matthew over for reckless driving, yet charge him for it, is tactical. It is a decision he said police hope will lead to him in jail without bond.
In most cases people that are charged with reckless driving don’t spend time in jail, especially if they have no past criminal history, Goodman told WCAV 19.
“As days go by [as police look for him] when he's charged, he is found, they'll be able to argue to a judge that he is a flight risk,” Goodman said.
On Monday police returned to Matthew’s apartment and left with three bags of evidence. His landlady said she had not seen him, his roommates, or his dog, in days.
"Mr. Matthew has indicated clearly that he wants to speak to an attorney before he answers anymore questions, so he will be able to invoke that right at such time when officers make contact with him," Goodman told WCAV.
Currently Matthew faces no charges related to Graham’s disappearance. Forensic evidence from his home and vehicle are expected back sometime Tuesday, police said.
“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.”
Police said they had received over 900 tips in the case, and heard from at least 60 eyewitnesses. But they ask if you saw a burnt orange Chrysler coupe on the downtown mall on Saturday, Sept. 13, to please call the tip line at 434-295-3851.
Matthew is said to be in possession of his sister’s car, a blue Nissa Sentra with VA plates VAC4575.
Police said that in addition to his home state of Virginia, he has known associates in Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.
A $50,000 reward is now being offered in hopes of soliciting tips that could lead police to Graham.