Remains Identified as Missing College Student Hannah Graham
Her grieving parents: "Hannah is coming home to us"
After five agonizing weeks, Hannah Graham‘s parents got the news they feared: that the remains of their missing daughter have been identified.
On Friday, authorities said that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia, had positively identified the skull and bones found scattered across a dried-up creek bed behind a vacant home in southern Albemarle County on Oct. 18 as those of Graham.
On Friday morning, Graham’s parents, Sue and John Graham, reportedly visited the site where her remains were found – 12 miles from where she was last seen in Charlottesville on Sept. 13.
“When we first met Chief Longo he promised to find our precious daughter, Hannah, and during five long weeks his resolve to fulfill that promise never wavered,” the Grahams wrote in a statement. “When we started this journey together we all hoped for a happier ending. Sadly that was not to be, but due to the tenacity and determination of Chief Longo, Hannah is coming home to us and we will be eternally grateful to him for this.”
Law enforcement and civilians searched for “thousands of hours,” scouring Charlottesville and its vast surrounding countryside to find Graham before volunteers from the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Department came across the skeletal remains, Charlottesville police chief Timothy Longo told reporters in a press conference on Oct. 18. The skull and bones were found not far from the road on the 2.5-acre property – just four miles from where the prime suspect in her disappearance, Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., grew up.
The property where her remains were found is located on a desolate road near U.S. Route 29, the long stretch of highway that cuts through Charlottesville, where at least four other women – including Morgan Harrington, whose remains were found on a farm five miles from where Grahams’ remains were discovered – have gone missing since 2009.
Matthew, who police believe was the last person seen with Graham, is being held without bond at the Albemarle Regional Jail on charges of abduction with intent to defile in connection with the teenager’s disappearance.
Two days after Graham’s body was found, a grand jury in Fairfax, Virginia, indicted Matthew on a charge of attempted capital murder and felony counts of abduction with intent to defile and sexual penetration with an object in connection with a brutal 2005 rape in the city, north of Charlottesville.
A significant break in another high-profile, 2009 case led to his indictment. On Sept. 29, Virginia State Police announced that they had forensic evidence linking Matthew to Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who was last seen at a concert on the UVA campus in Charlottesville on Oct. 17, 2009. Her body was found on a 700-acre farm in Albemarle County.
DNA from Harrington’s killer found at the crime scene was also linked to the 2005 rape in Fairfax, Virginia.
On Oct. 20, Fairfax County prosecutor Ray Morrogh told reporters that he could not discuss how this investigation and indictment relates to the Harrington or Graham cases. “The facts and details will be revealed in the judicial process,” he said.
Police found the cab on abandoned on a farm in Albemarle County, WTVR in Virginia reports. Melvin Carter Jr., of Carter’s Taxi told NBC29 that a Charlottesville detective told him Harrington had gotten into a taxi the night she vanished.
Police had questioned Matthew and other cab drivers in the area in 2009 in connection with Harrington’s disappearance, NBC29 reported.
Harrington had left the arena during the concert and was unable to get back inside. She was last seen walking on Charlottesville’s Copeley Bridge. Her remains were found 10 miles from where she was last seen.
Matthew’s attorney, Jim Camblos, did not return calls for comment when reached by PEOPLE.