Fairfax judge grants media’s request to unseal Jesse Matthew’s court documents

Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-06 19:11:01-05

FAIRFAX, Va. -- Soon, the public will know more about what happened the night police say Jesse Matthew Jr. brutally attacked and tried to kill a Fairfax woman, in 2005. Matthew is the same man facing first-degree charges in the murder of UVa. second-year student, Hannah Graham, in Sept. 2014.

Both of his cases have drawn extensive pretrial publicity. A group of media outlets pushed for a Fairfax county judge to make those court records public.

Matthew’s defense previously expressed concerns that releasing too much information to television stations and newspapers would interfere with his getting a fair trial. The media outlets, including the Associated Press, defended their request and said that sealing the court file violates constitutional guarantees of a public trial.

Fairfax case goes back to 2005

Authorities say that on Sept. 24, 2005, a young woman returning from a grocery store was grabbed from behind by an assailant and sexually assaulted.

“We saw her purse on the front sidewalk,” said neighbor Stacey Simkins. “He had already dragged her behind our units to the dark pool area.”

Simkins did not see the suspect’s face, but she immediately called police.

“The offender was scared away by a passerby,” the FBI said in a statement, “but the victim got a good look at him.”

In addition to the victim’s potential testimony, the FBI also says it has DNA evidence in the case.

Matthew's trial in Fairfax is scheduled for June 8.

Graham case delayed over DNA

Matthew's trial for the murder of Hannah Graham was supposed to begin June 29, but his defense team asked for a delay. His lawyer, Jim Camblos, said he needs a DNA expert to help his defense and adds that there is not enough time between now and June 29 to get such an expert up to speed on the case.

Graham was last seen leaving a Charlottesville bar with Matthew, on Sept. 13. Her remains were found on an abandoned property in Albemarle County on Oct. 18.

A new date for that case will be set in May.

Matthew's DNA was previously found on the black “Pantera” shirt Morgan Harrington wore the night she disappeared outside John Paul Jones area in Charlottesville on October 17, 2009, according to a search warrant obtained by CBS 6 reporter Laura French.

“There was a large diffuse of stain on the shirt,” that search warrant indicated. “A DNA mixture profile was developed….on the shirt and searched against the Virginia DNA Data Bank. Search results indicated that the contributor of a foreign DNA profile, indicative of a male contributor, which was developed from a fingernail scraping of a female victim who was sexually assaulted by a male subject in a 2005 City of Fairfax, Virginia case, could not be eliminated as a contributor to the mixture profile taken from Harrington’s shirt.”

Matthew has recently been charged in connection to the 2005 sexual assault case.

Charlottesville Police then submitted a “wooden tip from a cigar butt” that Matthew had his wallet to the state crime lab.

“A DNA profile was developed from the ‘wooden tip from a cigar butt’ and could not be eliminated as a contributor to the sampling from the majority of the interior of the black t-shirt,” the search warrant continued. “The probability of randomly selecting an unrelated individual who would be included as a contributor to the DNA mixture profile is greater than one in 7.2 billion, which is approximately the world population.”

The search warrant indicated police are working with Ntelos to confirm Matthew had a working mobile phone in the Charlottesville-area the night Harrington disappeared