Here are some thoughts on the investigation into the disappearance of Hannah Graham:
On Monday, September 29th Virginia State Police released a very provocative statement which seemingly linked the Graham disappearance to the murder of Morgan Harrington, and to the suspect now in custody, Jesse Matthew. Here’s what the Virginia State Police stated:
“For the past five years, the Virginia State Police has been aggressively pursuing the investigation into the disappearance and death of 20-year-old Morgan D. Harrington of Roanoke, Va. Last week, the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville, Va., provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue. There is a still a great deal of work to be done in regards to this investigation and we appreciate the public’s patience as we move forward.”
People can infer what they want from this statement, but everyone should be careful, at this point, to not read too much into it (the full text may be viewed here).
What the statement doesn’t say, but what headlines are repeating throughout the media is the following:
1. That there is DNA evidence linking Jesse Matthew to the murder of Morgan Harrington and the disappearance of Hannah Graham.
2. That Jesse Matthew is a suspect in both cases.
At this point neither of these statements are true, and the implication that they are factual risks severely compromising these investigations.
Forensic evidence can be DNA evidence, but it is not exclusively DNA evidence. Forensic evidence can be a fingerprint, it can also be an object like a piece of paper.
As well, although implied, the “forensic link” is not necessarily from Jesse Matthew.
I believe the statement from the Virginia State Police is deliberately confusing because they are purposely using the media and public speculation to achieve some specific, but at this time unknown outcome related to all three individuals.
But there are great dangers in speculation. Media feedback loops lead to bad assumptions, which lead to labels like Jesse Matthew is “a monster”, or that Hannah Graham was “brutally murdered”. At this point in time, none of that has been confirmed.
Clearly the Virginia State Police has made some missteps in the past with criminal investigations, but we are still only 2 weeks into Hannah Graham’s disappearance. At this point, it would be best to step back and let the police and the FBI do their jobs.