Jesse Matthew appointed high profile mental health expert, at $350 an hour

Posted at 7:58 PM, Dec 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-07 19:58:42-05

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Jesse Matthew has been appointed a mental health expert in his capital murder case of second year University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

At a hearing Monday, Albemarle Circuit court Judge Cheryl Higgins, ordered that William J. Stejskal ( ) assist Matthew's defense at a rate of $350 per hour and be reimbursed for reasonable travel expenses incurred in the case.

The clinical and forensic psychologist, based out of Woodbridge, Virginia, most recently testified in the high profile Fairfax County case of serial killer Charles Severance. Severance, who Dr. Stejskal diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia, was convicted in November of killing three prominent Alexandria, Virginia residents.

"It seems like it is very expected. I would be surprised if they wouldn't have investigated that question thoroughly," said Gil Harrington, mother of Morgan Harrington, believed to be another Matthew’s victim.  "It is disturbing for me but I have had to accept and swallow a whole lot of things that are way more difficult than this," added Harrington.

Although Monday's hearing involved the Hannah Graham case, Harrington felt a need to attend. Matthew stands trial October 24, 2016 for the 2009 murder of her daughter Morgan.

"I really feel compelled to be here.  I feel honor bound, this is part of my covenant with Morgan, that I was always going to be there for her," said Harrington.  "I didn't think it would be in this way, but I will be here every time I can possibly be here.”

"I did look at him, [Matthew] I did not see him looking at me,” Harrington added. “He seemed like he was more alert he was more participatory in the proceeding than I have seen.”

Matthew took notes and spoke several times to his attorneys Monday.

Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford, objected to the Defense withdrawing sealed Motion 18 involving search warrants. That motion to suppress was filed October 20, and was supposed to be heard November 10, but one of the 14 officers the defense subpoenaed --who was directly involved in the search warrant -- is seriously ill with cancer so it was continued.

Lunsford explained that he could testify December 17 when the court is already taking up a status hearing on the Harrington case.

Lunsford urged the judge to keep the matter on track due to the detective's health concerns and multiple doctor's appointments.

Capital Public Defender Douglas Ramseur argued that he needed more time to investigate his pleadings. He called it "highly inappropriate" that the Commonwealth draw conclusions on the Defense's motives.

He explained this is a death penalty case and he wants to "do it right the first time."

"It is very difficult for a family member to speak on that because the pretense is there, it there seems like if we push it out far enough unfortunately he may not be here to testify. I am hoping that's not the case that they just really need more time," said Trina Murphy, Alexis Murphy's aunt and HSTNG supporter.

"I hope that that was not the motive because that is a very unfortunate means of strategizing if indeed that is the case," said Harrington.

Judge Higgins ruled in favor of the defense to withdraw its motion.  It has until 4 p.m. Jan. 6 to refile the motion.  A hearing was set for 9:30 January 11, allowing time for testimony if the defense chooses to refile Motion 18.

Lunsford's last day in office is December 31.  Commonwealth's Attorney elect, Robert Tracci, attended Monday's hearing and took notes throughout the 30 minute proceeding.

"We have a very cordial and working relationship with Miss Lunsford and we anticipate have the same thing with Mr. Tracci and we have met and spoken with him," said Harrington.

Matthew's father, sister and former girlfriend also attended Monday's hearing.

Matthew's next appearance is a status hearing December 17, for the first-degree murder of Morgan Harrington.

Matthew is scheduled to stand trial in the Hannah Graham case July 5, 2016.

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