Are These Missing Virgina Students Connected?

The search for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham heads into its third week, and investigators on the case may have just received a breakthrough. There's an alleged connection between the 2009 murder of Virgina Tech student Morgan Harrington and Graham's disappearance, Harrington's parents told NBC Charlottesville. According to the Harrington's, forensic evidence has linked the two cases, which occurred five years apart.

CBS affiliate WTVR reports that the forensic evidence belongs to Jesse Matthew, the 34-year-old who was arrested in Galveston, Texas, last Wednesday on charges of abduction with intent to defile Graham. The specifics of the forensic evidence have yet to be released, but there is an alleged match linking Matthew to both Harrington and Graham.

Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller told WTVR via email:

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.

Harrington disappeared on Oct. 17, 2009, while attending a Metallica concert at the John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virgina campus. Her remains were found in a field in Albemarle County, Virginia, in January 2010. No arrests were made in her case, despite an extensive search mission and investigation.

Also in 2010, Harrington's murder was linked to an unsolved kidnapping and rape that occurred in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2005. Police said at the time that there was a clear DNA connection between Harrington's murder and the Fairfax rape and abduction.

Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore at UVA, was last heard from in the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 13. She disappeared after a night of socializing and attending off-campus parties with her college friends. According to Charlottesville police, Graham sent a series of text messages to a friend at 1:20 a.m., saying she was lost somewhere in the downtown area.

Surveillance footage from stores in the downtown Charlottesville area captured Graham walking aimlessly, at times looking distressed and confused. Charlottesville police say Matthew, who can also be seen in the surveillance footage, took Graham to a bar later that night. She may have also gotten in his car.

After questioning Matthew and seizing his car as a person of interest, the police charged him with abduction and intent to defile last Tuesday. The next day, Matthew was arrested on a beach in Galveston, Texas. He was extradited back to Virginia.

Images: Hannah Elizabeth Graham, The Cavalier Daily/Facebook, Wikimedia Commons