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Judge rules investigators did not mislead magistrate in obtaining search warrant in Jesse Matthew case

Posted at 7:10 AM, Jan 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 15:00:06-05

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VA -- Jesse Matthew Jr. appeared in Albemarle County Circuit Court Monday, for an all-day hearing in the Hannah Graham murder case.

After 10 hours of testimony, from six defense witnesses, Judge Cheryl Higgins concluded investigators did not intentionally try to mislead or hide evidence from a magistrate in obtaining search warrants.  Therefore, Higgins denied the defense motion for a Franks hearing.

As part of that ruling, Higgins pointed out that there was sufficient probable cause to grant the search warrant.

Higgins specifically referenced a tip that came in from a witness. In an interview with Charlottesville Police investigators, that witness, reported encountering a black male matching Matthew’s description on the September 2014 night Hannah Graham disappeared. She reported Matthew attempting to give her and her friend a high five on Charlottesville’s downtown pedestrian mall moments before approaching Hannah Graham and putting his arm around her. She reported to police that she followed them to the Tempo Bar where she positively identified Graham making reference to Graham’s pink phone. Higgins said Matthew charged $15.30 worth of drinks to his Visa card at Tempo September 13, 2014. Drinks were also charged at 12:18am. A University of Virginia Medical Center employee also identified Matthew as an employee of the hospital and identified his burnt orange automobile.

Higgins went on to point out that when Detective Sergeant James Mooney with the Charlottesville Police Department executed the search warrant, he informed Matthew that they had video of him and Graham on the Downtown mall.  She said Matthew’s response was, “I was pretty drunk that night, I don’t remember.”  Mooney reminded Matthew that he was aware enough to drive that evening.  Matthew responded, “Do I need an attorney?”  Police then seized Matthew’s car and Matthew told them he needed to get passport paperwork out of the vehicle.  He asked when he would get the vehicle back but refused to provide police with his cell phone number.

The defense alleged investigators intentionally omitted findings of bloodhound searches for Graham in an affidavit for search warrants.  They called former Louisa county Sheriff’s detective and experienced bloodhound handler Buck Garner as their first witness.  Garner testified that they obtained a scent article out of Hannah Graham’s apartment and testified about three searches his dog Shaker conducted. The defense pointed out that one of those trails took place September 17, 2014.  Shaker picked up Graham’s scent on East market street and it ended a mile and a half away away from where Matthew’s car was spotted in a mulch pile in an industrial area known as Woolen Mills.  Garner said Shaker picked up a strong scent of “fear or adrenalin.” Testimony also revealed that unsolicited, Shaker led police to Matthew's apartment front door five times and sliding back door, prior to a search warrant.  Graham's scent was also found on the passenger side door of Matthew’s vehicle, and on a nearby dumpster.  Garner testified that Graham’s scent was identified but no trial was identified indicating that Graham was not present.  The defense pointed out several inconsistencies in Garner’s testimony.

Officers also brought in a cadaver dog that did not pick up a strong scent around Matthew’s vehicle.  Matthew did allow officers at that time to walk through his apartment prior to obtaining a search warrant.

Fourteen law enforcement officers from Charlottesville, Albemarle and Louisa were subpoenaed for the hearing.

This was the first time, police officers testified about evidence found during the search for Graham, a University of Virginia student who was found dead a month after she disappeared.

Monday’s motion to suppress was continued until January 21 at 9 a.m. when more witnesses will be called.  The defense is expected to challenge the scope of the search warrants.

Matthew faces capital murder and abduction charges in her September 2014 disappearance.

Matthew faces an October murder trial for the October 2009 abduction and first-degree murder of Morgan Harrington.

He entered an Alford plea last year to charges of attempted capital murder and sexual assault for a 2005 case in Fairfax County for which he has already been sentenced to three life terms in prison.  The DNA from that case helped connect him to the Harrington case.​