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Alexandria Va. holds out hope for Hannah Graham (+video)

Residents of Alexandria Virginia know Hannah Graham as a witty, polite, intelligent young woman with a dry sense of humor. Police have arrested a suspect in the disappearance of the U.Va. sophomore. 

Property owners look for Hannah Graham

Yellow ribbons adorn the streets of Hannah Graham's northern Virginia neighborhood, symbols of hope in a community devastated by the disappearance of a woman known for her intelligence, wit and dry sense of humor.

Graham vanished on Sept. 13, her steps recorded by grainy surveillance videos as she walked unaccompanied on the streets of Charlottesville and its popular Downtown Mall, an open air center of shops, bars and restaurants. She is a sophomore at the University of Virginia.

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A suspect in her disappearance, Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., was released from the county jail in Galveston, Texas, and extradited to Charlottesville on Friday evening, said Charlottesville spokeswoman Miriam Dickler. Capt. Aaron Carver of the Charlottesville-Albermarle Regional Jail said Matthew is in custody there.

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Matthew was being held without bond and is expected to have an initial court appearance Thursday, Dickler said. He was arrested on a beach near Galveston on Wednesday.

Police have charged Matthew, 32, with "abduction with intent to defile" the 18-year-old Graham. "Defile," in a legal context, means "sexually molest."

Authorities said they had probable cause to support the charge against Matthew after twice searching his apartment and gathering evidence they have not described, saying it ultimately will be presented at trial.

A crime lab is testing clothing recovered through search warrants, but police haven't said whose clothing that was. In the meantime, police in Charlottesville have indicated that they have no idea where Graham is.

"It's extremely frustrating," said Charlottesville resident Nancy Murphy Spicer, who participated in a volunteer search for Graham last weekend. "I just want to hear that they found her and that she's well."

In her hometown of Alexandria, Graham is known as whip smart, with broad interests and eclectic tastes in music. She moved from Britain to the U.S. when she was about 6 and was determined to lose her British accent, said Craig Maniglia, her softball coach at West Potomac High School and a family friend who lives in the Grahams' neighborhood.

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Maniglia described her as "witty, polite, extremely intelligent, with a very dry British sense of humor."

Graham played saxophone in the high school band and had a weakness for Elvis, students and teachers said. At a vigil Wednesday at her old high school, the band played Elvis' "Can't Help falling in Love." Her favorite candy, Starburst, was scattered on the cafeteria tables where the vigil was held.

Graham and her softball teammates routinely warmed up to a wide range of music from her iPod that was blasted over the loudspeakers, Maniglia said.

"All of a sudden you could hear a classical piece, and then maybe Elvis, and then maybe AC/DC," he said. "It was such a wide variety of music. That's what I liked about it."

Now, Maniglia said, one of his daughters, away at college, has been having nightmares since Graham's disappearance.

"She'll send me texts at 3:30, 4 in the morning, saying, 'It could've been me. It could've been (my sister). What is wrong with this world?'"

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo, who has made emotional public pleas seeking Graham's recovery, has acknowledged that the longer Grahamremains missing, the dimmer the hope she will be found alive.

The search for Graham has expanded to rural areas outside the college town of 40,000.

"We have an obligation to bring her home, one way or the other. That's what we promised to do," Longo said Thursday.

The hunt for Matthew ended in the Texas beach town of Gilchrist, 1,260 miles from Charlottesville. A deputy sheriff responding to a suspicious-person report found him camping on the beach.

Authorities say Graham met friends at a restaurant for dinner Sept. 12 before stopping by two off-campus parties. She left the second party alone and eventually texted a friend saying she was lost, authorities said.

Matthew attended Liberty University from 2000 to 2002, said officials with the Lynchburg school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. The school's athletics website listed him as a defensive lineman on the football team.

While at Liberty, Matthew was accused of raping a student on campus, but the charge was ultimately dropped, Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Doucette said Friday.

"The complaining witness said she did not consent; Mr. Matthew said she did consent," Doucette said.

Ultimately, the woman said she did not want to move forward with the investigation, he said.

"When the investigator called, she never returned his calls, so the decision was made not to place a charge at that time," Doucette said.

The Lynchburg Police Department investigative file was being sent to Charlottesville at the request of police investigating Graham's disappearance, he said.

Matthew attended Christopher Newport University in Newport News from January 2003 through Oct. 15, 2003, the Newport News university confirmed in an email. He was briefly a member of the football team, according to the university.

Citing federal privacy laws, Christopher Newport said it could provide no further information on Matthew.

More recently, Matthew volunteered to help coach football at The Covenant School, a private Christian grade school in Charlottesville, where officials said he had passed background and reference checks.

Alan Suderman reported from Charlottesville. Associated Press writers Steve Szkotak in Richmond and Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.


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