Parents of Hannah Graham urge lawmakers to expand DNA database

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The parents of murdered UVA student Hannah Graham visited House Speaker Bill Howell and House Minority Leader David Toscano Friday morning.

They’re pushing for a measure, HJ 711, that could lead to expanding the state’s DNA database.

“Hannah would never have met him and he would not have abducted and murdered her and simply put she would be alive today,” said Sue Graham, Hannah’s mother.

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It’s been nearly a year since Jesse Matthew was convicted for the murder of Hannah Graham. Her parents John and Sue are now asking lawmakers to take a closer look at expanding the state’s DNA database which they say would have saved their daughter’s life.

“He wouldn’t have been hiding in plain sight, living in Charlottesville, working for the university medical system, coaching football at a local school,” Sue said.

Matthew’s DNA was linked to a 2005 rape in Fairfax County. That same DNA was connected to the murder of Morgan Harrington.

In 2010, Matthew was arrested and convicted of trespassing but his crime was not serious enough to warrant taking his DNA. The Grahams support a measure that would study expanding the number of misdemeanor crimes that require DNA.

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“He would quickly have been linked to the two earlier attacks and he would have been convicted of those offenses,” John Graham said. “He wouldn’t have been at liberty to prey on Hannah.”

But efforts to expand the DNA database have stalled in years past. Some lawmakers and groups like the ACLU cite concerns over personal privacy. They say there has to be a balance between protecting the public and civil liberties.

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“How would they talk to the next Susan Graham or the next Gil Harrington? Mothers grieving the loss of daughters who may have been abducted or murdered or raped by somebody who really should have been detected and been off the streets. How would an opponent of this proposal have that conversation?” John Graham said.

The bill also faces another hurdle. The state is facing a more than $1 billion shortfall. Lawmakers would have to figure out how to pay for the study.

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