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Conditions set for killer’s plea deal in UVa., Va. Tech student murders

Posted at 11:50 AM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 16:10:31-05

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The former cab driver accused of killing two Virginia college students will admit to their murders in a plea deal Wednesday afternoon, a deal which both the victims' families support.

Jesse Matthew Jr. is expected to enter a plea agreement in court "to resolve both the Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington abduction and murder cases," a prosecutor said Monday. There will be conditions to the plea deal that will be entered at 1:30 p.m. in the Albemarle courtroom.

He is expected to plead guilty to first-degree murder and intent to defile in both cases, sources close to the deal said. He will serve multiple life sentences, not concurrently, and 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.

Hannah Graham and family

Hannah Graham and family

When Matthew appears in court Wednesday, he will face the parents of Graham, an 18-year-old University of Virginia student, who went missing in September 2014. Authorities found her remains the next month on abandoned property eight miles from where the second-year college student was last seen.

He will also face the parents of 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. 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.

Morgan Harrington and parents

Morgan Harrington and parents

Both families told CBS 6 they supported the plea. They will be entering statements in court today, something which is rare in a plea deal, but which the families requested.

"This is not a celebratory time of time of fist-pumping joy," Gil Harrington, Morgan's mother said to CBS 6. "Our daughter is still as dead as she was in 2009."

"We have seen Morgan’s broken bones and cannot comprehend what one human could have so desperately needed to have hurt and murdered our daughter," she said ahead of Matthew's court appearance.

His admission will come six-and-a-half years after the Harringtons first learned their daughter had been murdered.

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

"The expense and cost is so much more than money. It is 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."

Jesse Matthew Jr.

Jesse Matthew Jr.

Last year, a judge sentenced Matthew to three life sentences for the 2005 sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in Fairfax, Virginia. The DNA in that case tied together all cases.

A series of Twitter posts Monday on the page of "Help Save the Next Girl," an organization founded by Harrington's parents, expressed gratitude for the plea deal.

"There are no winners here," mother Gil Harrington told CNN affiliate WVIR. "You know, our daughters are still dead. But then, I corrected myself, that actually the winner is the community, and maybe that's what the abstract of justice means."

Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci did not have anything to say ahead of the hearing,"in the interest of protecting the integrity of the judicial process."

CBS 6 News will be inside the courtroom for Wednesday's hearing. Be sure to follow and the WTVR app for updates, and watch a live report on CBS 6 News at Noon. 

Follow report Laura French on Twitter for up-to-the-minute details of this developing story: