Remains identified as Hannah Graham

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Human remains found Saturday have been identified as those of Hannah Graham, according to the County of Albemarle Police Department.

On Saturday, human remains were found in southern Albemarle County, along Old Lynchburg Road, and sent to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Richmond. Positive identification was confirmed Friday afternoon to be 18-year-old Hannah Graham of Fairfax, Va.

Hannah’s parents were notified by Albemarle County Police Chief Colonel Steve Sellers and Detective Sergeant Terry Walls. They released a statement on Friday.

Document: Oct. 24 statement from Hannah’s parents

“When we first met [Charlottesville Police] Chief Longo, he promised to find our precious daughter, Hannah, and during five long weeks his resolve to fulfill that promise never wavered,” the Grahams’ statement said, in part. “When we started this journey together we all hoped for a happier ending. Sadly that was not to be, but due to the tenacity and determination of Chief Longo, Hannah is coming home to us and we will be eternally grateful to him for this.”

Governor Terry McAuliffe released the following statement, following Friday’s announcement in the Hannah Graham investigation:

Words cannot express Dorothy’s and my sorrow over the news of Hannah Graham’s passing, or the sympathy that we feel for her family, friends and all of the Virginians who have kept them in their thoughts and prayers. I want to thank the sheriff’s deputies, police officers, emergency personnel, and volunteers who searched day after day in the hope of finding Hannah. Our hearts are broken by today’s news, but that will not diminish our resolve to get justice for Hannah and her family.

Investigators continue to move forward with the death investigation, working “around the clock,” according to an Albemarle County Police Department release.

The tip to look off Old Lynchburg Road came from a landscaper who worked near the abandoned property. Bobby Pugh one day watched dozens of vultures perch and circle the rural area outside Charlottesville late September.

“It wasn’t your normal deer-carcass-on-the-side-of-the-street buzzard,” Pugh said. “This was 20 to 30, what we call black-headed buzzards which are competitive scavengers. They’re pretty aggressive scavengers.”

This tip filed Sept. 30 developed into the lead authorities followed to find human remains Oct. 18.  Search crews scoured the place coming up with a skull that was sent to Richmond, according to a police source close to the case.

Several jurisdictions are coordinating on this investigation, including the Charlottesville Police Department, the Fairfax City Police Department and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office, which is the lead agency on the Morgan Harrington investigation.

Police are asking anyone who might have tips for investigators — perhaps residents near Old Lynchburg Road — to call the Charlottesville Police Department’s tip line: 434-295-3851.

“We remain committed to this investigation and will work to ensure that justice is served,” the ACPD release said.

Last month, 32-year-old Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was charged with abduction with intent to defile Graham, a UVa. student who went missing Sept. 13.

Graham’s remains were discovered roughly six miles from where the body of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington was found after she vanished in 2009. Police have said forensic evidence connects Matthew to Harrington’s killing, which in turn is linked by DNA to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax.

Matthew was indicted Monday as a suspect in the 2005 case, but has not been charged in Harrington’s case.

Timeline: Hannah Graham investigation

Matthew is in jail in Charlottesville and will appear in court Dec. 4 for a preliminary hearing in the Hannah Graham case. His attorney has repeatedly refused to discuss his client, and a message on his law office telephone on Monday said he was not taking questions in the case.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management released the following statement Friday:

All who are trained in search and rescue embark on their mission with the sincere expectation of finding the missing person alive. We are truly saddened by the confirmation of Hannah Graham’s passing. Our deepest sympathies are with her family and friends and all who knew her and loved her. 

Our agency and hundreds of volunteer search teams were honored to serve the Charlottesville and Albemarle police departments, the Charlottesville/University of Virginia community and the Commonwealth of Virginia for more than 30 days in the search for Hannah. Volunteer teams logged more than 7,500 search hours and were deployed on more than 670 search tasks. We remain committed to assisting local law enforcement with the search for missing persons as needed.

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