The man facing the death penalty for murdering UVA student Hannah Graham last year pleads not guilty in the 2005 Fairfax, Virginia, assault

By K.C. Baker
Updated June 08, 2015 08:00 PM
Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/AP

A woman who was brutally assaulted in Virginia in 2005 “fought like the dickens” against Jesse Matthew Jr., the man who is charged with her “vicious attack” and with last year’s high-profile murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, prosecutors said in court Monday.

During the first day of Matthew’s trial, the victim, who was 26 at the time of the attack, told jurors that she was walking home from a grocery store in Fairfax, Virginia, on September, 24, 2005, when a man grabbed her from behind, dragged her into a wooded area, choked her and tried to rape her.

“He said, ‘I will kill you if you scream again,’ ” said the victim, The Washington Post reports. “He said, ‘let me do this and I’ll let you go.’ ”

The headlights from a parked car may have scared off her assailant, prosecutor Ray Morrogh told jurors.

Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, Virginia, is charged with attempted capital murder, abduction and sexual assault in connection with the 2005 attack.

Matthew came to court in a shirt and tie, entering a not guilty plea in a soft-spoken voice, the Associated Press reports.

During opening statements, Morrogh also said that authorities were able to recover DNA evidence from that struggle that links him to the assault, the Associated Press reports.

But one of Matthew’s attorneys, public defender Robert Frank, warned jurors that DNA can be easily transferred. “There is a possibility that DNA came … from innocent contact,” Frank said.

Court documents released earlier this year show that a DNA analysis of a sample collected from underneath one of the victim’s fingernails found there was a one in 7.2 billion chance that it belonged to anyone other than Matthew, The Washington Post reports.

Last week, the victim, whose name is being withheld by PEOPLE, flew to Virginia from India, where she now lives, to testify against Matthew.

Dawn Butorac, another attorney for Matthew, asked why it took almost ten years for the victim to allege that Matthew tried to rape her.

Morrogh said that the woman had been deeply traumatized from the attack.

“She was beaten and choked,” Morrogh said.

Authorities have said that Matthew may be a serial predator, since DNA evidence from the 2005 Fairfax assault links Matthew to the murders of two young women in Virginia.

Matthew, who police believe was the last person to be seen with Graham in Charlottesville weeks before she was found dead on a vacant property near the UVA campus, is charged capital murder in her death.

Last fall, Virginia State Police announced that it had found new forensic evidence linking Matthew to the murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, who went missing in 2009 and was found dead in 2010 in a hayfield near Charlottesville, Virginia. Matthew has not been charged in that case.

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