Parents of Slain Students See Jesse Matthew for First Time

Mar 4, 2015

The parents of slain college students Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham got their first look at the man they believe killed their daughters.

The hearing itself was uneventful. The judge quickly granted the defense request to hire a DNA expert and push back the trial date so the expert could sift through the evidence.

But for three people on the front front row of the prosecution's side of the courtroom, the proceedings were very personal. As the shackled prisoner, Jesse Matthew was led in, he was eyed steadily by Sue Graham, John Graham, and Gil Harrington. Afterward, Harrington explained what that was like.

"It's a strange feeling, but we know a lot of people that have not had this resolution, whose family members and loved ones are still missing. So although it's an odd place to be, we're really grateful that we do have this opportunity for justice to occur."

The 33-year-old Matthew stands charged with abduction and first-degree murder in the September death of Graham after she apparently got lost on her way to meet fellow students at the University of Virginia. Authorities have alleged a DNA link but have yet to levy any charges in the death of Harrington, who disappeared five years earlier.

Backed by her daughter's art teacher, Jane Lillian Vance, Gil Harrington emerges from the hearing
Credit Hawes Spencer

Like the Grahams, the parents of Matthew left court without making any statements, leaving Gil Harrington with the last word about her daughter, Morgan, a Virginia Tech student who vanished after getting locked out of a Charlottesville concert.

"Being here and being a witness to these proceedings is one of the last things I can do for her, and I intend to be here as often as I can."

She'll get her next opportunity on May 5 when the court will convene to set a new trial date.