FAIRFAX, Va. — The accused killer of two Virginia college students was sentenced Friday to three life prison terms for a 2005 sexual assault case in Fairfax County, Va.
Jesse Matthew Jr. was sentenced on attempted capital murder and sexual assault charges of a woman a decade ago. The judge ordered the sentences to be served consecutively.
Matthew, of Charlottesville, Va., also faces first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile charges in connection with the murders of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham and Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington.
The woman in the 2005 case was attacked as she walked home from the supermarket. She was 26 years old at the time.
Matthew entered an Alford plea in the case in June. By doing so, he agreed the Commonwealth had enough evidence to convict him without admitting any crime.
DNA evidence collected from Matthew during last year’s investigation into Graham’s disappearance linked him to the Fairfax County case.
Matthew’s family asked the judge for leniency.
After the sentence was announced, Matthew’s mother screamed, “No, No, no! I hope you rot in hell!” She was escorted out of court.
On Tuesday, a former girlfriend of Matthew’s claimed in a letter that Matthew had been raped as a child. Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, however, doubted those claims and argued they were irrelevant to the case regardless of their authenticity.
In the sentencing, Judge David Schell said Matthew’s attack was vicious and brutal and the victim suffered severely.
Harrington disappeared Oct. 17, 2009, after a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Va. Her T-shirt was later found on a nearby tree limb and her body was found more than three months later in a field in Albemarle County, Va. The location was about six miles from where Fairfax County native Hannah Graham’s remains would be discovered nearly five years later.
Harrington’s death was ruled a homicide, but officials have not said how she was killed.
Graham disappeared in 2014.
Detectives said they have long known there was a connection between the murders of Harrington and Graham, but it wasn’t until June that Matthew was convicted of attempted capital murder and sex crimes against a different Fairfax County woman in 2005. Police were then able to definitively make the connection, thanks to testimony from that victim.
Harrington’s mother, Gil, calls the woman, who has not been identified because she is a victim of sexual assault, a hero. “Without her testimony, for 10 years to have her justice and to speak her truth in court, we wouldn’t be anywhere.”
Matthew’s trial in the Graham case is set for July.
He will go on trial for Harrington’s death in October 2016.