CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Police investigating the disappearance of a University of Virginia student said Friday that they have talked to a man they believe was with her in a bar the night she went missing but did not have enough information to arrest or detain him after searching his car and apartment.
In an emotional appeal, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo asked anyone who might have seen Hannah Graham and the man early Sept. 13 on the Downtown Mall to contact authorities.
“People saw Hannah, and people saw him, and people saw them together,” Longo said.
Hundreds of volunteers have signed up for a massive search Saturday. Asked if he believed the 18-year-old Graham was still alive, Longo said he was “hopeful.”
He said police believe Graham might have left the bar with the man in his burnt orange 1998 Chrysler coupe.
“If you remember seeing that vehicle and seeing it drive away, we need to hear from you,” Longo said at a news conference.
He also urged anyone who might have seen the two at The Tempo bar and restaurant to call police.
Longo stopped short of calling the man a suspect, but said police are keeping an eye on him.
“We’re very interested in learning more about his interactions with Hannah,” he said.
Lead investigator Detective Sgt. Jim Mooney said he spoke with the man Friday morning when police executed a search warrant at his apartment “and I want to talk to him again.” He declined to say what the man told him.
Longo said police had previous contacts with the man, but he would not provide details.
According to the chief, some of the more than 400 tips police have received prompted their search of the vehicle and the off-campus apartment. He declined to say what evidence police collected.
However, he said the search of the car “established probable cause” for the subsequent search of the apartment.
Until Friday, the search had focused primarily on Graham’s movements the night of Sept. 12 and into the early morning hours of Sept. 13. The sophomore from northern Virginia met friends at a restaurant for dinner, stopped by two parties at off-campus housing units, and left the second party alone, police have said.
Surveillance videos showed her walking, and at some points running, past a pub and a service station and then onto the Downtown Mall, a seven-block pedestrian strip lined with shops and restaurants.
At 1:06 a.m. she texted friends that she was lost. She sent other texts, but police have said none of them reflected fear or panic.
Students and others turned out by the thousands late Thursday for a vigil. Graham’s disappearance has left many on edge.
U.Va. freshmen Anna Frazier of Reston and Jefferson Sheron of Herndon strolled the Downtown Mall Friday afternoon not far from where surveillance cameras last captured Graham’s grainy image.
“Before coming here, my parents said don’t go anywhere by yourself,” Frazier said of her arrival at U.Va. “My parents are really worried about it, which makes me more concerned. It definitely heightens your senses.
“I feel safe on (U.Va.) grounds, but I wouldn’t come downtown without Jefferson here,” Frazier, 18, said.
Sheron said Graham’s disappearance increased his sense of responsibility to look out for his female friends.
“With all this stuff with Hannah it’s first on your mind — let me walk you back to your dorm,” said Sheron, also 18.
Longo said he visited with Graham’s parents just before Friday’s news conference.
“They want to know what happened to their little girl. That’s all,” he said.
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