Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. pleaded guilty to the murders of then second-year College student Hannah Graham and Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington at the Albemarle Circuit County Court Wednesday. Matthew’s trial for Graham’s murder was originally set for July 5. The trial for Harrington’s murder was set for Oct. 24.
Matthew was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences for the murder and abduction of Graham and the murder and abduction of Harrington. The capital murder charge in Graham’s case was nolle prosequi.
As part of the plea bargain, Matthew waived his right to apply for conditional release, early release and parole, including geriatric release.
At a press conference following the hearing, Matthew’s lead counsel said his client took the deal to avoid the death penalty.
Prior to his plea, Matthew was charged with capital murder and abduction with intent to defile in the murder of Graham, as well as with the charges of first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile in the murder of Harrington.
The death penalty became a useful tool in these horrible cases. Albemarle County played this one very smart and very craftily. Matthew deserves to die. He and his lawyers knew he deserved to die and that the state of Virginia was more than willing to oblige him. He also had victims’ parents who had the wherewithal to make that happen. So he bought his life. He will probably live out his days with the worst of the worst, at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County.
Had Virginia not had the death penalty firmly in place, it would have cost a great deal more to prosecute this monster, not once but twice. Additionally, there is always the remote chance that something can get overthrown on a technicality.
Hopefully, the victims’ friends and families can now get the closure they deserve. They have survived the nightmare.