Rape trial starts for suspect in Virginia student's murder

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 08, 2015 10:17 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Virginia man who faces a possible death penalty for the murder of college student Hannah Graham stands trial on Monday on a separate accusation of rape and attempted murder.

The suspect, Jesse Matthew Jr., 33, of Charlottesville, is charged with attacking a woman in Fairfax, Virginia, a Washington suburb, in 2005. Jury selection starts on Monday.

Matthew, a former hospital worker, is accused of grabbing a 26-year-old woman walking home from a grocery store, dragging her into nearby woods and sexually assaulted her.

He also is charged with abducting and killing Graham, a University of Virginia sophomore, last year in a case that drew national attention.

Albemarle County prosecutors charged him with capital murder last week, making him eligible for the death penalty if convicted in that case.

The rape trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court is scheduled to last two weeks. Matthew faces life in prison if convicted.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted capital murder during abduction, abduction with intent to defile, and sexual penetration with an object.

Virginia State Police have said forensic evidence links Matthew to Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who disappeared after leaving a Charlottesville concert in October 2009. Her body was discovered in 2010.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Donia Chiacu)