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Hannah Graham

Hannah Graham

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WASHINGTON POST

Human remains believed to be those of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham have been found on an abandoned property outside Charlottesville, authorities announced Saturday evening.

Graham, 18, of the Alexandria-area of Fairfax County, vanished in the early hours of Saturday Sept. 13. She was last seen by witnesses on the Downtown Mall with a man identified by police as Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said authorities must still make a conclusive identification of the remains. But he said police have notified the teen’s family. Authorities also said Graham’s case has become a death investigation.

If the body is that of the sophomore, it marks a grim end to a five-week search for the teen, who apparently became lost after a night out drinking and socializing with friends.

The remains were found by a sheriff’s deputy in Albemarle County.

“I want to thank everyone who gave up their days, their nights, their weekends,” Longo said of the search for Graham. “People who called, wrote and dropped food and good wishes and words of encouragement to the search groups and the detectives who work so hard through this investigation.”

“Today would have not been possible without their prayers, their encouragement and their help,” the chief said.

Longo said a police official reached out to Hannah Graham’s parents, John and Susan Graham, with “a very difficult phone call to share this preliminary discovery.”

Police said they have been searching the property for any clues, and said they would not release further details at this stage of the investigation.

“Today’s discovery is a significant development. And we have a great deal of work ahead of us. We cannot and we will not jump to any conclusions in regards to today’s discovery,” said Col. Steve Sellers, of the Albemarle County Sheriff’s Office.

“This sadly is now a death investigation,” Sellers said.

Police have said they linked Matthew’s DNA to the investigations of a violent sexual assault in Fairfax City in 2005 and the abduction and murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, in October 2009.

Hannah Graham timeline

Matthew has also been identified as a football player who was accused of sexual assault at Liberty University in 2002 and transferred to Christopher Newport University, where he was accused of another sexual assault in 2003 before dropping out. The university investigations did not lead to criminal charges.

James L. Camblos III, the lawyer representing Matthew said he would await further information. “The police have located human remains and we will wait to see what the medical examiner says to see who it is,” Camblos said.

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