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Jesse Matthew first confessed to Graham, Harrington murders in 2014

Posted at 4:50 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 07:24:21-05

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. --  The parents of both murdered Virginia college students, Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham, knew Jesse Matthew was the person who killed their daughters nearly a year and a half before he pleaded guilty to their murders. Matthew first admitted to killing the students in October 2014, WTVR CBS 6 reporter Laura French learned.

Matthew's defense attorney at the time, Jim Camblos, presented a plea deal to prosecutors which asked for 25 years in prison for Matthew, in exchange for the guilty plea and revealing the location of Hannah Graham's remains. As part of the plea, Matthew would also confess to the murder of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, who went missing in October 2009 after attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville. Her remains were discovered on a nearby farm in January 2010.

Hannah Graham (left) and Morgan Harrington

Hannah Graham (left) and Morgan Harrington

Graham, an 18-year-old University of Virginia student, went missing in September 2014.  A search effort brought out law enforcement and hundreds of volunteers who helped comb a widespread area for clues to the teen's disappearance.

Law enforcement searches for Hannah Graham in October 2014.

Law enforcement searches for Hannah Graham in October 2014.

Just days after the defense attorney offered the plea deal, Graham's remains were found. Authorities found her remains a month after she disappeared, on abandoned property eight miles from where the second-year college student was last seen.

The plea deal was taken off the table at that point.

Matthew's DNA, captured during the Graham investigation, also matched the profile for the person suspected of killing Harrington, and for a 2005 rape case in Northern Virginia.

Matthew was convicted of the Northern Virginia rape, along with an attempted murder charge, in 2015. He was sentenced to life in prison for those crimes.

Jesse Matthew at Fairfax court appearance

Jesse Matthew at Fairfax court appearance

It was not until  2015 that a grand jury indicted Matthew on charges of first-degree murder and abduction with the intent to defile in the Harrington case. If the recent plea deal had not been accepted, sources said that there was a plan to charge Matthew for the capital murder of Harrington as well.

With the plea deal entered by Matthew on Wednesday, March 2, he will serve separate multiple life sentences. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and intent to defile in both cases.

There will be no chance for early release as a condition of the deal. Matthew will not be eligible for parole, and will relinquish any possibility of geriatric release.

He will no longer face any chance of getting the death penalty, as he will no longer face a July capital murder trial for Graham’s murder. However, he will never again pose a threat to public safety, sources close to the deal said.

For prosecutors, the plea deal is a win, said CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone.

“The expense and cost is so much more than money. It’s resources and man power in such a small prosecutor’s office,” he said. “They now will be able to focus on prosecuting things that they have. Perhaps preventing this from happening in the future.”