Albemarle County prosecutors say they won’t seek the death penalty against Jesse Matthew, who has now been indicted for the 2009 kidnapping and murder of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington after a Metallica concert in Charlottesville. He’s already facing a murder charge in connection with the death of 18-year-old UVA student Hannah Graham, and if convicted in that case, he could be executed. Harrington’s parents, who were active in the search for their daughter’s killer, were in court today as the charges were read.
Dan Harrington says he was relieved when the Commonwealth’s Attorney announced Jesse Mathew would be charged with the first degree murder of his daughter, although it was an emotional moment for him. He and his wife, Gil Harrington, were in court for today’s proceedings and spoke with us afterward.
“We feel like we’re honor bound to show up and watch the process, see how this judicial part of the journey unfolds, and I want Jesse Mathews to know that I’ll keep showing up and have been working hard for six years, and we’re not going anywhere.”
The Harringtons said they were not disappointed by a decision not to seek the death penalty.
“I’m not sure that it matters at this point in time. He’ll never hurt anyone again, and that is vital, absolutely necessary.”
The two helped found an organization called Save the Next Girl, and Gil Harrington says that work has brought them strength and healing.
“We try and diminish incidents of sexual violence through education, victim outreach and legislative activism. We’ve helped changed laws, and we have 35 chapters at different schools of Help Save the Next Girl.”
The Harringtons lobbied for bills that require sexual assaults on campus be reported to police, that DNA be taken from anyone convicted of a first degree misdemeanor, and that criminals’ genetic material be considered as detectives search for new suspects who might be related to them.
The court appointed two lawyers to defend Mathew. He’s expected back in court on September 30th.