RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia General Assembly spends much of its 45-day session addressing some of the biggest issues that arise over the course of the year. In 2015, that includes reacting to former governor Bob McDonnell's conviction with new ethics law proposals and the death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding was among the members of law enforcement who lobbied lawmakers Wednesday in an effort to expand Virginia's DNA database to include the DNA of any person convicted of a misdemeanor. Graham's accused abductor, Jesse Matthew, was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2010.
"I wish these lawmakers could walk in my shoes and see what I have seen," Harding said. "I think in all probability Hannah Graham would be alive today [had Matthew's DNA been in the system]."
Harding said had Matthew's DNA been on file, it would have matched a Fairfax sexual assault case from 2005. Matthew, he said, would have been behind bars the night Hannah Graham never made it home. Harding said 965 cases have been solved in New York state since that state expanded its DNA database. Among the solved crimes, 51 murders and more than 200 sexual assaults, he said.
"The stats speak for themselves," Harding added.
Joining Harding at the Virginia State Capitol Wednesday was Gil Harrington. Harrington's daughter Morgan disappeared while in Charlottesville in 2009. Her body was discovered months later on a farm in Albemarle County. Jesse Matthew has been forensically linked to the Harrington case.
"It is such a valuable tool to put in the hands of law enforcement," Harrington said. She added the Graham family was aware of what an expanded database could have prevented. Harrington speculated the Grahams may break their silence in the weeks to come to support this measure should it come to a vote.
Virginia lawmakers on both side of the aisle have proposed measures to expand the state's DNA database.