CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The urgent fliers pinned to trees and electric poles disrupt the calm in this quaint college town. They include two photos of a missing young woman, one with her smiling and freckled, the other of her in a crop top, racing down a hallway, a seeming allusion to a predator who the police say abducted her with the intent to do terrible harm.
A bridge near the University of Virginia's sorority and fraternity houses has been painted with the words "Bring Hannah Home," a message that has become a Twitter hashtag, an incantation around this city and the increasingly desperate goal of the police here as they try to piece together what happened to Hannah Graham, 18, last seen early Sept. 13.
The police have charged a man in connection with Graham's disappearance, and other law enforcement officials believe he may be linked to the 2009 murder of another college student. Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, was also accused of sexual assaults on other college campuses, leaving students feeling rattled and on guard.
Matthew was accused of sexually assaulting women twice between 2002 and 2003, as a student at Liberty University in Lynchburg and at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Matthew's lawyer, James Camblos, declined to answer questions. Matthew, who is facing charges of abduction with intent to defile in the case of Graham, will have his first hearing on the matter in early December.
Michael Doucette, the Lynchburg commonwealth attorney, said his office unearthed a sexual assault complaint against Matthew that had been investigated by the police but that his office had declined to prosecute.
Matthew went on to attend Christopher Newport University, said Bruce Bronstein, a spokesman there, from January to October 2003. "A complaint against Mr. Matthew of sexual assault on Sept. 7, 2003, was made by one of our students," Bronstein said in an email. "The matter was thoroughly investigated by university police. No physical injuries were reported. The victim chose not to proceed with a criminal prosecution."
Virginia State Police officials have said they have a "new forensic link" between Matthew and Morgan Harrington, 20, a Virginia Tech student who disappeared in Charlottesville in 2009 after she left a Metallica concert at a University of Virginia arena. Her body was found months later in a field 10 miles south of town.