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Jesse Matthew likely to enter plea deal in Graham, Harrington cases to avoid death penalty

Posted at 2:21 PM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 08:57:08-05

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Jesse Matthew Jr., the suspect in two Albemarle murders set for trial this year, is likely to accept a plea deal, according to the prosecution. The deal was presented to the families, and should be formally entered on Wednesday, March 2. He is expected to take a plea deal for the murders of Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington, with conditions.

Matthew’s trial for the murder of Graham, a second-year University of Virginia student at the time she disappeared in Sept. 2014, is scheduled for July. Graham’s remains were found approximately a month after she disappeared.

Matthew’s second trial would be in October, for the murder of Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who disappeared while attending a concert in Charlottesville, in 2009. Harrington’s remains were found about three months after she disappeared, in 2010.

Before he was sworn in, newly-elected Albemarle Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci traveled to Northern Virginia to meet with the capital prosecutor who sent D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad to death row. Tracci met with Prince William Commonwealth's attorney Paul Ebert and two assistant attorneys, Jim Willit and Rick Conway. Tracci wanted to have the resources needed to take a capital case to trial. Willit and Conway were prepared to assist on the Matthew case.

Matthew faced the death penalty if convicted for the murder of Graham. Under the plea deal, his life would be spared, but sources close to the deal said that he would never again threaten another life. Both Graham and Harrington's family have said they supported the plea agreement.

The news of his plea deal comes after Matthew’s attorney tried recently to suppress evidence from search warrants in the Graham case. The defense wanted to suppress any and all items seized from Matthew’s apartment the morning of Sept. 19, 2014.

The defense argued that the search warrants were overly broad and exceeded scope, but an Albemarle Circuit Court judge denied the motion. Since then, for several weeks, there has been talk of a plea deal.

Jesse Matthew Jr.

Last June, Matthew entered an Alford plea for the September 2005 abduction, sexual assault and attempted murder of the victim identified as "RG" in Fairfax. The DNA from that case was what created a connection between multiple cases.

With the Alford plea, Matthew did not admit to a criminal act, but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to win a conviction. However, the plea came as a surprise to many. It was a way to maintain innocence, but for all intent and purpose, there was no sentencing distinction, and his appellate rights are waived as well.

A plea deal in the Graham and Harrington case will provide an admission of guilt, sources familiar with the deal said. Members of both the Harrington and Graham families will give victim impact statements at the hearing Wednesday.

CBS 6 will be at the March 2 hearing. All reporting on these cases can be read here.

Gil Harrington Speaks on likely plea deal

Harrington told CBS 6 Monday night that there are a lot of mixed emotions on the deal.

"It's not a celebratory time of fist pumping joy," said Harrington in a phone interview Monday evening, "our daughter is still as dead as she was in 2009."

Harrington said they have wanted to take this journey until the very end and have validation and accountability.