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Crews search along Route 29, rural properties for missing UVa. student Hannah Graham

Posted at 6:52 PM, Sep 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-28 21:39:48-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- More than two weeks after Hannah Graham vanished without a trace, there is still no sign of the missing University of Virginia student.

Hopes remain high on campus as specialized crews from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management search areas throughout Central Virginia, including rural parts of Albemarle County.

Professional investigative search crews canvassed areas on Route 29 in southern Albemarle County on Sunday.

Crews using search dogs and ATVs to reach remote areas searching for any clues, including possibly any torn clothing as well as for misplaced tire tracks or abandoned sheds.

And of course officials want people who saw Jesse Matthew, the man arrested on abduction with the intent to defile, the weekend Graham disappeared to come forward.

Even though Graham has been missing for over two weeks, authorities do not want the public to think the search operation is being reduced in any way

"The operation is not being scaled back. We have a number of people who are out searching all day long and have been throughout the entire weekend. We have people here who are mapping the areas that have been searched. We’re doing systematic searches of rural property and land," Carter Johnson with the Albemarle County Police Department said.

However, the billboards in the Richmond area that were asking people for information regarding Graham were no longer active as of Sunday.

If you have information that could help investigators,  call Charlottesville police at 434-295-3851.

Graham was officially reported missing on Sept. 14, though she was last seen the early hours of Sept. 13.

Matthew’s car and apartment were searched five days later, on Sept. 19, after police reviewed video and spoke with witnesses. The next day Matthew was reported to have sped away from the overt surveillance Virginia State Police had on him.

He was next named a suspect, after police received more forensic evidence – of which they have not disclosed.

Police in Texas were alerted to a suspicious man camping on the beach in Gilchrist on the Bolivar Peninsula, approximately 1,300 miles from Charlottesville. When they ran his license plate number around 3:30 p.m., they found out he was wanted in Virginia.

He was charged with giving false information to a police officer.

A federal law enforcement source confirmed a phone call made from a borrowed cell phone in Louisiana, to Virginia, is how police first discovered Jesse Matthew was out of the state and on the run.

Hannah Graham

Hannah Graham

Where is Hannah Graham?

It was late on a Friday night and a freckled, blue-eyed University of Virginia student named Hannah Graham was partying in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.

Graham, described as an accomplished athlete and straight-A student, was seen various times before her disappearance in the early hours of September 13.

She was at a party and later at an apartment complex, just blocks away. A surveillance camera caught her outside a pub, where she was turned away.

She was next seen running past a gas station, and witness accounts have her walking onto the Downtown Mall, a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with restaurants and shops. There were a few people out walking around, and surveillance cameras help capture the track Graham took.

A surveillance camera at an Italian cafe captured her walking eastbound along the mall about 1:06 a.m. A camera at a jewelry store recorded her passing two minutes later.

That camera footage appears to show her walking with Matthew, and a witness collaborated that he say Graham approached by a man who put his arm around her.

Matthew was originally spotted on the camera at the Italian café, headed the opposite direction as Graham. The video shows him cross over and fall into step behind Graham, heading eastbound.

Police said that at 1:20 a.m., she texted her friends to say she was lost and trying to find a party.

However, she told her friends, according to police, that she was lost at a location near her apartment – which was 1.5 miles from where she was spotted on camera ten minutes before the text.

She and a man were seen having drinks at a bar between 1:30 and 2 a.m. was what police have said.

The owner of the restaurant released a statement that Matthew had been inside the bar, but Graham had not.

She may have been under the influence of alcohol, Longo said, and may have been vulnerable or unable to defend herself.

Jesse Matthew

Jesse Matthew

What will happen with Matthew?

On Friday, a day after he waived extradition, Matthew was flown from Texas to Virginia.

Due to a statewide judicial conference, it won’t be until at least Thursday that Matthew goes before General District Court.

Matthew's father spoke publicly, for the first time, to CBS 6. He said his son would not have harmed Graham.

"For a big man, he's as gentle as they come," Jesse Matthew Sr. said. "The only thing I could see, him, maybe trying to give the girl a ride or help her out.

"To kill or hurt somebody, that's not my son."

Matthew also was questioned in connection with an alleged sexual assault nearly 12 years ago, authorities said.

But no charges were filed because the woman didn't want to go forward with the case and investigators determined there wasn't enough evidence to arrest Matthew, said Michael Doucette, the commonwealth's attorney for Lynchburg, Virginia.

According to a statement from Lynchburg police, the woman reported she was raped on the campus of Liberty University on October 17, 2002.

Matthew told authorities that the woman consented, Doucette said, adding that there were no witnesses.

On Thursday, he appeared before Galveston County Judge Mark Henry on a charge of giving false information to a Texas peace officer.

Matthew's Virginia-based lawyer had little to say about his client when approached this week outside his Charlottesville office.

"I am Mr. Matthew's attorney," James Camblos said. "I was hired on Saturday. That's the only thing that I'm going to confirm at this point. The family and I -- nobody is making any statements at this point in time. We might later on, but right now we are not."

Matthew willingly went to a police station last weekend, along with several family members, walking through the front door and asking for a lawyer, Longo said. There was no warrant for his arrest at that time.

Matthew and the lawyer spoke and then left, the police chief said, giving detectives no clearer picture of what may have happened the day Graham disappeared.

Because he has retained counsel, police cannot question him.

Authorities searched Matthew's apartment and car but have declined to say what -- if anything -- was found.

What’s next in the search for Hannah Graham? 

Charlottesville Police have received 1,500 tips so far in the case. The first weekend after Graham’s disappearance, more than 1,200 volunteers and Virginia Department of Emergency Management officials spent the weekend searching for clues that would lead them to Graham.

As time passes, the search area grows, investigators say. Longo said the VDEM, and search and rescue have covered most of city, and Carter’s Mountain.

Longo said what happened over the next 40 or so hours until Graham was reported missing is crucial.

"There is this block of time," he said. "This very big, large, significant block of time between the time we know Hannah Graham disappeared and the time that disappearance was reported to us. We need to shrink that gap."

Authorities say they think people who know Matthew may be helpful in the search for Graham.

"If you know Jesse, and many people do because Jesse grew up here," Longo said. "He went to school here. He has family here. He went to church here. He worked here. Lots of people know Jesse."

Longo also asked property owners to check their land for anything suspicion.

He asked owners that have checked their land to call the Hannah Graham tip line at 434-295-3851 or email CPDTips@charlottesville.org to let investigators cross those properties off the list.

“If you have seen tire tracks…that seem suspect, again, contact us,” Longo said. “We will make the assessment of what is relevant.”

The chief also asked for the help of Charlottesville-area realtors.

“If you are a realtor who serves the greater Charlottesville area, we are asking you to go to vacant properties to follow the same directives that we have asked property owners.”

The city of Charlottesville, the University of Virginia and the local community have contributed $100,000 to a reward for “information leading to the cause” of Graham’s disappearance.

Anyone with info is asked to call the tipline at 434-295-3851.

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

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for the latest updates on this important story.