It’s the early hours of the morning, but Hannah Graham’s night is still young. En route to yet another party, she texts her friends to tell them that she’s lost her way. Then, she disappears into the night. And six days later, some startling footage comes to light.
Graham was born on February 25, 1996, in Reading, a town in Berkshire, England. When she was young, her father John got a job with the World Bank in Washington, D.C., so the family relocated to the United States. And there she began attending West Potomac High School in Virginia.
According to those who knew her, Graham was a thoughtful and responsible student. Her hobbies included skiing and playing the saxophone, and she wasn’t considered the sort of young woman who was likely to go off the rails. After graduating in 2013, she subsequently enrolled at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA.
In spring 2014 Graham traveled to Lyon in France, where she developed a passion for French culture. Then, the following summer, she became interested in public health after attending a conference in Washington, D.C. And by September 2014 Graham was growing into a driven young woman with a bright future seemingly ahead of her.
The evening of September 12, 2014, started off like any other for Graham and her friends. After enjoying dinner at a local restaurant, the student made her way to an off-campus party. Obviously in good spirits, she then left the first gathering and headed to a second party.
Tragically, however, that’s where things started to go wrong. After drinking with friends at the second gathering, she left them and headed out into Charlottesville alone. Apparently, she was trying to find her way to another party, although by this time it seems that she was intoxicated and confused.
At around 1:20 a.m., Graham sent a text message to her friends, confirming her intention to visit a third party. However, she also told them that she was lost and was having difficulty finding her way. And that was the last that anyone heard from Graham.
That night, in fact, Graham did not return home. And when she still hadn’t appeared by 4:30 p.m. the next day, she was reported missing to the authorities. Police began using surveillance footage and witness statements to slowly piece together Graham’s movements on the night that she went missing.
According to police, Graham had been caught on camera walking away from the University of Virginia campus at around 1:00 a.m. Later, she was picked up by CCTV at the Downtown Mall, a large, open-air shopping center in Charlottesville.
As the days passed, Graham’s family began to worry more and more about the missing teen. Apparently, it was out of character for her to disappear. Meanwhile, police were able to track down more video footage of Graham from the early hours of September 13.
In this footage, Graham can be seen walking through downtown Charlottesville, passing an Irish bar known as McGrady’s. Additionally, a surveillance camera at a gasoline station four blocks away also filmed Graham. By that point, she appeared to be running, although she soon slowed back down to a walk.
So what had happened to Graham that fateful night in Charlottesville? Well, on September 19 there was finally a breakthrough in the case. According to police, a person of interest had been identified – a man who had been caught on film leaving a bar with Graham on September 13.
While more than 1,000 volunteers descended on Charlottesville to search for Graham, police began hunting for cab driver Jesse L. Matthew Jr. Finally, on September 24 they announced that they had their man. As investigators tried to figure out what role Matthew may have played in Graham’s disappearance, an unsettling story started to emerge.
According to witnesses, Graham had been spotted with Matthew in a Charlottesville restaurant around the time that she disappeared. Furthermore, Graham had allegedly been drunk, and Matthew had also apparently been seen buying the underage girl an alcoholic drink.
Witnesses reportedly went on to detail the pair’s movements after leaving the bar. Matthew allegedly followed Graham down the street, opening the door to his waiting vehicle. Graham was apparently reluctant to join him, however, and one witness claimed that the student refused to enter the car.
As the investigation continued, more details about Matthew’s unsavory behavior began to emerge. Apparently, he had spent the night harassing a number of women in different Charlottesville bars. Furthermore, it was discovered that the former Liberty University and Christopher Newport University student had faced allegations of sexual assault before. So had the unfortunate Graham simply ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Then, on September 29 there was another twist in the tale. According to investigators, evidence had emerged that connected Matthew to another shocking crime – the murder of student Morgan Harrington back in 2009. Like Graham, Harrington had gone missing after a night out in Charlottesville. Tragically, her body was found three months later.
Unfortunately, Graham’s story would not have a happier ending. On October 18, 2014, a Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office team discovered human remains in Albemarle County, Virginia – just five miles from where Harrington’s body had been found.
Six days later, police confirmed that the body belonged to Graham. Matthew, who had been facing a charge of abduction with intent to defile, now found himself accused of first-degree murder. And later he was also charged with the abduction and murder of Harrington.
On March 2, 2016, Matthew pleaded guilty to the abduction and murder of both Harrington and Graham. By this time, he was already serving multiple life sentences for an earlier attack on a woman in Fairfax County, VA. At the end of his trial, he found himself facing four more consecutive terms – a punishment that will ensure that he never again sets foot outside jail.