Man charged in students' deaths gets 3 life terms in assault

DNA evidence collected from Matthew during last year's investigation of Graham's disappearance linked him to the Fairfax case.

Fairfax: Jesse Matthew Jr, charged with the murders of British born student Hannah Graham and another young woman, was sentenced to life in prison for a sexual assault on a woman a decade ago in northern Virginia.

Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, Virginia, was officially sentenced yesterday to three consecutive life terms for attempted capital murder, abduction, and sexual assault of a woman in 2005.

DNA evidence collected from Matthew during last year's investigation of Graham's disappearance linked him to the Fairfax case.

Matthew's family had asked the judge for leniency in letters to the court, and a former girlfriend, identifying herself only as "Diana," wrote a letter on Matthew's behalf saying he was raped as a child.

But Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh, who argued for the life sentence, was unmoved by the claim that Matthew himself may have been a victim of sexual assault. He told Judge David Schell he was suspicious about the truth of the claim and indifferent to its significance.

"If indeed this man was ever raped, then of all people it is he who should be loath to rape someone else," Morrogh said. He called Matthew a "modern day Jekyll and Hyde" who projected an image as a gentle giant to friends and family while hiding his life as a violent sexual predator.

"Killing her with his bare hands would have been the ultimate rush for him," Morrogh said, crediting a bystander for saving the victim's life by intervening and prompting Matthew to flee.

Sentencing guidelines broadly called for a term of anywhere from nine to 44 years, lawyers said. Public defender Robert Frank said the picture of Matthew a state champion wrestler who received a football scholarship to Liberty University as a gentle giant is the one that he and the defense team had come to know over the last year.

He urged the judge not to consider "what might have happened in Charlottesville" a reference to the deaths of Graham and Harrington, which have received national attention in sentencing Matthew for the assault.

Schell said little in handing down the maximum sentence, calling the crime a "vicious and brutal attack."

Morrogh told reporters after the hearing that the life sentence was appropriate, given the viciousness of the crime, and said he was certain the sentence reflected the judge's feelings about the Fairfax assault only, and that he did not take pending charges in the Graham and Harrington deaths into account.

Morrogh said that under Virginia law, Matthew would be eligible for geriatric release at age 60 27 years from now regardless of the life sentences.

As the sentence was read, Matthew's mother, Debra Carr, began screaming "No!" and sobbed. She refused to move as deputies tried to take her from the courtroom.

The woman who was attacked now lives in India and was forced to return to Virginia to testify against him. She testified her attacker grabbed her just steps from her townhouse and carried her into a darkened area, where he ripped off her clothes and molested her.  

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