UVa kidnap suspect: 'Gentle giant' or predator?

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

48 PHOTOS
UVA student linked to
See Gallery
UVa kidnap suspect: 'Gentle giant' or predator?
Police described the 18-year-old Northern Virginia native as a 5'11" white female with a skinny build.
Campus sexual assault has dominated headlines in 2014, with the White House heightening the pressure on colleges to get tough on crime. Is this at the expense of liberty? We look at kangaroo courts and ask if they're creating a new kind of injustice.
Police block the road leading to the scene of a death investigation in connection with the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hanna Graham in Albermarle County, Va., Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. Searchers found human remains on Saturday that could be those of a University of Virginia sophomore who has been missing since Sept. 13, police said. Further forensic tests are needed to confirm whether the remains are those of Hannah Graham, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo told a news conference. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo addresses reporters at a briefing Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, in Charlottesville at a staging area for the search team looking for missing UVa. student Hannah Graham. Longo said Sunday that law enforcement is aggressively searching the county surrounding Charlottesville for any sign of Graham, who disappeared on Sept. 13. A search team of about 100 law enforcement officers and other trained searchers was combing through the countryside over the weekend. (AP Photo/Jonathan Drew)
Missing UVa. student Hannah Graham, 18, was last heard from on Saturday, September 13 at 1:20 a.m., WTVR-TV reported. 
This undated image provided by the Galveston County Sheriff's Office shows a booking photo of Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo announced Wednesday night Sept. 24, 2014. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/Galveston County Sheriff)
A police officer jumps a fence as he searches for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham in Keswick, Va., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., charged with abducting Graham, didn't appear in court Thursday morning for a bond hearing on reckless driving charges. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Police on ATV's search for any sign of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham in Keswick, Va., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., charged with abducting Graham, didn't appear in court Thursday morning for a bond hearing on reckless driving charges. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Police on ATV's search the fence line along a highway for any sign of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham in Keswick, Va., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., charged with abducting Graham, didn't appear in court Thursday morning for a bond hearing on reckless driving charges. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Members of the Virginia State Police assemble on Sunday, Oct. 5, in Charlottesville, Va., at a staging area for the search team looking for missing UVA student Hannah Graham. Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said Sunday that law enforcement is aggressively searching the county surrounding Charlottesville for any sign of raham, who disappeared on Sept. 13. A search team of about 100 law enforcement officers and other trained searchers was combing through the countryside over the weekend. (AP Photo/Jonathan Drew)
Graham was last seen wearing a black crop top with mesh cut outs on Friday, September 12, according to WTVR-TV. 
Hannah Graham is approximately 5'11" tall and has blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles, according to the Charlottesville Police Department
According to Charlottesville police, friends of the 18-year-old received a text from her at around 1:20 a.m. on September 13, and have not heard from her since. 
This image provided by the Charlottesville Police Department shows missing 18-year-old University of Virginia student, Hanna Elizabeth Graham, in a surveillance photo Saturday Sept. 13, 2014 in Charlottesville, Va. Police continue the search around the University Tuesday for the missing student. (AP Photo/Charlottesville Police Department)
A police officer looks into a well while searching for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham in Keswick, Va., Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., charged with abducting Graham, didn't appear in court Thursday morning for a bond hearing on reckless driving charges. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
In this Friday, Sept. 26, 2014 photo provided by the FBI, agents escort Jesse Leroy Matthew, Jr., center, from a plane during extradition to Charlottesville, Va. Matthew, 32, is suspect in the Sept. 13, 2014 disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. (AP Photo/FBI)
Morgan Harrington
Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. is escorted into a courtroom for an appearance before 405th District Court Judge Michelle Slaughter regarding his extradition back to Virginia Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Galveston, Texas. Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities Wednesday night Sept. 24, 2014. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jill Howard, left, and her stepdaughter Martie Belt, talk about the arrest of Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. as they walk along the beach Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, near Gilchrist, Texas, on the Bolivar Peninsula. Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo announced Wednesday night Sept. 24, 2014. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jill Howard points down the beach in the direction where Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was arrested Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, near Gilchrist, Texas, on the Bolivar Peninsula. Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo announced Wednesday night Sept. 24, 2014. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jill Howard, left, and her stepdaughter Martie Belt, look for seashells as they walk along the beach Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, near Gilchrist, Texas, on the Bolivar Peninsula. Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo announced Wednesday night Sept. 24, 2014. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. is escorted into a courtroom for an appearance before 405th District Court Judge Michelle Slaughter regarding his extradition back to Virginia Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Galveston, Texas. Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities Wednesday night Sept. 24, 2014. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. is escorted into a courtroom for an appearance before 405th District Court Judge Michelle Slaughter regarding his extradition back to Virginia Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Galveston, Texas. Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. is escorted into a courtroom for an appearance before 405th District Court Judge Michelle Slaughter regarding his extradition back to Virginia Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Galveston, Texas. Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., right, appears before 405th District Court Judge Michelle Slaughter, center, regarding his extradition back to Virginia Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Galveston, Texas. Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff's authorities. He is charged with abducting a missing University of Virginia sophomore and is awaiting extradition. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Kelly Garr replenishes a bag of yellow ribbons in the Stratford Landing neighborhood Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Alexandria, Va. where missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham grew-up, and her parents still live. Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., 32, charged with abducting Graham in Charlottesville, Va., was captured in Texas on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, and is awaiting extradition — but there is still no sign the 18-year-old student who went missing Sept. 13, authorities said. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: A couple walks on the sidewalk after 2am at the apartment complex where Hannah Graham lived in Charlottesville. Photos depict the route (as captured by surveillance cameras) thought to be where the lasting sightings of Hannah Graham occurred. Images were made in the early a.m. hours after midnight to approximate the conditions under which she was last seen. She went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
This undated photo provided by the Charlottesville, Va. Police Department shows Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. Authorities are again searching the apartment of Matthew, and they believe he is the last person seen with University of Virginia student Hannah Graham before she disappeared. Matthew is being sought on arrest warrants charging him with reckless driving, but authorities also say they want to talk to him about 18-year-old Graham, who has been missing since Sept. 13. (AP Photo/Charlottesville, Va. Police Department)
CORRECTS SOURCE - In this image provided by the Charlottesville Police Department via WRIC-TV Tuesday Sept. 23, 2014 shows the wanted poster issued for Leroy Matthew Jr. Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said at a news conference Tuesday night that officers are looking for Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., 32, after obtaining a felony arrest warrant from a magistrate on a charge of abduction with intent to defile. They also continue to search for 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who went missing early the morning of Sept. 13. (AP Photo/Charlottesville, VA. Police Department via WRIC-TV)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: At a Friday afternoon press conference Charlottesville (R) Police Chief Timothy Longo (that's Det. Sgt. Jim Mooney just left of him) was emotional as he pleaded with the public to think about anything they may have seen or remembered about events on the downtown mall last Friday at the time Hannah Graham disappeared. Graham went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: Investigators searched an apartment today as they followed up on a major lead they received in the case of missing UVA student Hannah Graham. They gathered after removing evidence from an apartment where a person of interest lived. Hannah Graham went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: Investigators searched an apartment today as they followed up on a major lead they received in the case of missing UVA student Hannah Graham. A forensics officer from the Charlottesville Police Department talked with a neighbor behind the apartment that was searched. Hannah Graham went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: At a Friday afternoon press conference Charlottesville (R) Police Chief Timothy Longo (that's Det. Sgt. Jim Mooney just left of him) was emotional as he pleaded with the public to think about anything they may have seen or remembered about events on the downtown mall last Friday at the time Hannah Graham disappeared. Graham went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: A couple walks on the sidewalk after 2am at the apartment complex where Hannah Graham lived in Charlottesville. Photos depict the route (as captured by surveillance cameras) thought to be where the lasting sightings of Hannah Graham occurred. Images were made in the early a.m. hours after midnight to approximate the conditions under which she was last seen. She went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: Bernard Bowles works very close to the spot on the mall where Heather Graham was last seen. He often hangs out in the area through the night and was around the night of her disappearance but says the he did not see anything unusual that night. Photos depict the route (as captured by surveillance cameras) thought to be where the lasting sightings of Hannah Graham occurred. Images were made in the early a.m. hours after midnight to approximate the conditions under which she was last seen. She went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
If you saw Jesse Matthew or his car last Saturday morning w/ #HannahGraham, call the police tip line at 434.295.3851. http://t.co/65WLdgILX5
This is a picture of Jesse Matthew's car. If you think you saw it PLEASE call the tip line. 434-295-3851 @CBS6 http://t.co/WQBWDNmfhu
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: At a Friday afternoon press conference Charlottesville (R) Police Chief Timothy Longo (that's Det. Sgt. Jim Mooney just left of him) was emotional as he pleaded with the public to think about anything they may have seen or remembered about events on the downtown mall last Friday at the time Hannah Graham disappeared. Graham went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 18: A candlelight vigil attended by hundreds was held tonight at McIntyre Amphitheater (on the UVA campus). The vigil was to honor Hannah Graham who went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. Among those who came to show support was (R) Lily Davis, (a freshman age 18) from Berryville, Va.(Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 18: A candlelight vigil attended by hundreds was held tonight at McIntyre Amphitheater (on the UVA campus). The vigil was to honor Hannah Graham who went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: Bernard Bowles works very close to the spot on the mall where Heather Graham was last seen. He often hangs out in the area through the night and was around the night of her disappearance but says the he did not see anything unusual that night. Photos depict the route (as captured by surveillance cameras) thought to be where the lasting sightings of Hannah Graham occurred. Images were made in the early a.m. hours after midnight to approximate the conditions under which she was last seen. She went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: Investigators searched an apartment today as they followed up on a major lead they received in the case of missing UVA student Hannah Graham. They gathered after removing evidence from an apartment where a person of interest lived. Hannah Graham went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- SEPTEMBER 19: One of the cameras that captured Hannah Graham walking by on the mall. Photos depict the route (as captured by surveillance cameras) thought to be where the lasting sightings of Hannah Graham occurred. Images were made in the early a.m. hours after midnight to approximate the conditions under which she was last seen. She went missing in downtown last Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Thoughts are with @UVA as they search for one of their own, Hannah Graham. #OneStateOneFight #hoosgotyourback
Important: CPD has advised that a UVA student, Hannah Graham, has been missing since 1:20 am on Sat. Call CPD with info: 434-970-3280.
Photo of missing UVA student Hannah Graham may be found here: http://t.co/LjB6zbhpX8 Please contact CPD at 434-970-3280 if you have seen her
PLEASE RT: @UVA student Hannah Graham missing since Sat. If you have info, call 434-970-3280 http://t.co/suXp2pWXBd http://t.co/M6j4a2eeMO
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was the kind of guy who would bust your lip, then regretfully drive you to the hospital. A "cool individual" around other guys, but a bit too "touchy-feely" with the ladies, family friend Rod Brown says.

"He doesn't mean to be creepy; he's just a little off, just a little awkward," says Brown, who's known "LJ" for about 15 years. "If he gets around women, I've never seen it NOT be awkward."

Authorities say Matthew's interactions with women went way beyond awkward.

The former college football lineman and sometime cab driver is in jail on a charge of "abduction with intent to defile" in the Sept. 13 disappearance of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham. Police say forensic evidence also connects the 32-year-old Charlottesville man to the 2009 murder of another college student, which in turn is linked by DNA to a 2005 sexual assault in northern Virginia.

Friends expressed shock that this "gentle giant" - he's 6-foot-2 and weighs 270 pounds - could be suspected of such violence. But court records reveal a man capable of explosive rage, hounded from one college, then another by allegations of sexual assault.

"It's just a sad story," says Brud Bicknell, who coached Matthew on the Monticello High Mustangs.

Defense attorney James Camblos III has said only that Matthew comes from a "hardworking, blue-collar" family. "Neither Mr. Matthews (sic) nor I are giving interviews at this time. If you're calling about an interview or to chat, do not leave a message," his answering machine says.

Matthew wrestled, played football and rank track at Charlottesville's Albermarle High School. Then in 1998, his junior year, he was transferred from overcrowded Albermarle to the newly completed Monticello High, and his parents separated.

Debra Carr Matthew retained custody of Jesse and his younger sister, Latasha. Court records show Jesse Matthew Sr., with a history of public intoxication arrests and one misdemeanor indecent exposure conviction, was living an hour away in Farmville and owed several thousand dollars in support.

The younger Matthew seemed destined to rise above all this. He became co-captain of the Monticello football squad as a senior, and then enrolled in psychology at evangelist Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, where he suited up as a redshirt defensive lineman for the Flames.

His college career took a sharp wrong turn in his junior year, when a fellow student accused Matthew of raping her. Matthew withdrew from Liberty on Oct. 17, 2002 - hours after a reported sexual assault behind the university's sports arena. The university said privacy laws prevent disclosing more details, or explaining why Matthew withdrew. Prosecutors said the case was dropped when the woman declined to press charges.

Matthew returned to school in January 2003, enrolling at Christopher Newport University in southeast Virginia. He joined their football team that August, but the second act was short-lived.

On Sept. 7, 2003, a fellow student accused him of sexual assault on the Newport News campus. Five days after the attack, Matthew dropped off the team roster; a month later, he was gone.

University spokesman Bruce Bronstein said "the matter was thoroughly investigated by University Police. No physical injuries were reported. The victim chose not to proceed with a criminal prosecution."

Student privacy laws cloak that case as well, but another CNU spokeswoman, Lori Jacobs, observed that "students don't usually leave in the second month of the semester or leave the football team within a month."

Back in Charlottesville, the former tackle went from rushing quarterbacks to hustling for fares and tips behind the wheel of a taxicab.

On June, 4, 2009, Charlottesville attorney Erik Wilke had just pulled out of a convenience store south of UVA's Scott Stadium when he heard persistent honking behind him. Wilke sped up and turned left, but the Access Taxi minivan continued its pursuit, the driver honking and shouting out the window.

Wilke finally pulled over, and Matthew boxed him in, angrily accusing the lawyer of cutting him off. When Wilke threatened to call the police after Matthew refused to move, Matthew exploded.

"He then got out of his car and walked up to my window," Wilke told police. "He reached in my window and grabbed my cellphone out of my hand. I attempted to get out of the car to get my phone back, and as I was doing so he punched me twice in the face."

The blows knocked off Wilke's eyeglasses.

Wilke told police that Matthew took his phone to his van, where he "eventually calmed down and actually seemed remorseful."

"I was bleeding from a deep cut in my lip and told him that I was going to need a ride to the hospital to get stitches," Wilke said.

Matthew returned the phone, helped find Wilke's glasses, and then drove the attorney to the emergency room at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Police arrested Matthew a month later on charges of felony grand larceny and misdemeanor assault and battery on Wilke. In a request for a public defender, Matthew claimed a weekly salary of $150 and $30 cash in total assets.

About two months later, on Oct. 17, 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, disappeared after leaving the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena during a Metallica concert. Her remains were found several months later in an Albermarle County hayfield.

Police had no real leads on her killer, but they now had DNA to work with.

In the spring of 2010, he was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing at a local garage, and Wilke agreed to drop the assault and larceny charges.

In August 2012, he got a job as an operating-room orderly at UVA Medical. He often bumped into volunteer ambulance driver Dave Hansen - the men had prayed together years earlier at Calvary Chapel, where Hansen was an assistant pastor.

"I always thought he was a gentle giant," says Hansen. "Just a nice guy."

A night owl, Matthew was a fixture in restaurants, bars and clubs along Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. Another club-goer, Kirk Ishitani, says he sometimes ran into Matthew there.

"If I went to Rapture, either he'd be there or he'd show up," says Ishitani. While he did not know Matthew well, Ishitani says, "You wouldn't get any 'Hey, I'd be scared to walk down a dark alley with this guy' kind of vibe."

Graham was last seen disappearing into the early morning darkness of Sept. 13, when a jewelry store's surveillance camera captured Matthew walking off with his arm around her.

Dan Harrington, who founded the awareness group "Help Save The Next Girl" after his daughter's slaying, hopes Matthew's arrest might spell the end a violent spree.

"If you look at the number of cases in central Virginia, there is a large number," he says. "And it's a little scary to think: If he's not associated with more of them, then there are other people that you have to worry about."

More on AOL:

Study reveals origin of AIDS pandemic
Man diagnosed with Ebola to be prosecuted
Britain's Cameron on surprise visit to Afghanistan

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners