ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – First degree murder and abduction with intent to defile are the charges Jesse Matthew, Jr. is facing in Virginia Tech’s student Morgan Harrington’s death. Both are offenses carry sentences of 20 years to life in prison if he is convicted.
The new charges, filed September 15, come in addition to a capital murder charge in the death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
Some people asked why Matthew was not charged with capital murder once again.
“Capital murder requires very specific things, said 8News legal expert Russ Stone. “Capital murder is not just any murder. It has to be in conjunction with some other offense such as rape, robbery, something of that nature.”
Stone says the grand jury may not have found enough conclusive evidence for a more severe charge.
“If they’ve charged first degree murder at this point, it could be because they know they can prove murder, but may not feel confident that they can prove other aspects besides the murder,” Stone explained.
A first degree murder charge in Harrington’s death would eliminate the possibility of a death sentence for Matthew. However, he could face the death penalty if convicted of the capital murder charge in Hannah Graham’s murder.
The timeline for his upcoming trials and sentencing are blurry at best.
“The Commonwealth gets to decide which charges to try him on first,” Stone said. “If they have a stronger case for Graham, that may come first.”
In the meantime, two families search for closure. Matthew is set to appear in court on September 16 to face the charges in the Harrington case.