Man Charged with Abduction of Hannah Graham Was ‘Expelled from Liberty University After Girl Claimed He Raped Her’
Nick Fagge, Daily Mail (London), September 25, 2014
Jesse ‘LJ’ Matthew, the man charged with the abduction of missing UVA student Hannah Graham, was accused of rape when he studied at Liberty University, MailOnline can exclusively reveal.
Matthew was expelled from the Christian university founded by Jerry Falwell in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 2002, following the alleged sex attack on a female student but was not charged with any crime, former teammates said.
Police announced last night that Matthew was arrested in Galveston, Texas, after going on the run. He appeared in court there this morning charged with Hannah’s abduction ‘with intent to defile’ and is awaiting extradition to Virginia.
As a gifted football player, ‘LJ’–as he likes to be known–won a sports scholarship to Liberty University after he was named Charlottesville’s ‘Athlete of the Year’ in 1999.
But Matthew, now 32, was forced to leave before he graduated following the allegation that he raped a female student on the university campus in October 2002.
Lynchburg City Police investigated the rape allegation and Matthew was named as a suspect, MailOnline has been told. But the student was not arrested or charged, due to lack of evidence.
However his scholarship was withdrawn and he was thrown out of the university, his teammates told MailOnline.
Former Liberty Flames Football captain William Haith said: ‘LJ was on the football team. He was a defensive end. He won a sports scholarship for football.
‘But he left in 2002. He got into some trouble over sex with a girl. She made a complaint against him. He was put out of the football team because of the complaint. He was kicked out of the university as well.
‘The allegation was that he forced himself upon a girl at a party and had sex with her. The girl said he was aggressive towards her and she filed a complaint against him. He was put off the football team and he was put out of school. Liberty is a very disciplined school with strong religious beliefs.’
Another former teammate, Milton Johnson, claimed: ‘LJ was accused of sexual assaulting a girl when he was at Liberty. She was a student at Liberty. He got kicked off the football team and kicked out of the university. He was real rough with her and she ended up in hospital.’
Mr Milton added: ‘LJ was awkward around people. He was kind of weird.’
A third former teammate, Andre Jerry, told MailOnline: ‘I know LJ. He played on the defensive line–we were a pretty tight crew. I remember a girl did make an allegation against him but I don’t know the details. She was a student at Liberty. But LJ was never charged with anything.’
A spokesman for Lynchburg City Police did not confirm the claim, citing procedure, but told MailOnline: ‘It was an allegation of rape. A suspect was identified. But there was not enough evidence to move forward against that person.’
He added: ‘We are co-operating with the Charlottesville Police Department. They have contacted us and we are assisting them as best we can with any questions they have.’
Liberty is America’s largest private non-profit university and is also the largest Evangelical Christian university in the world with almost 14,000 residential students and over 100,000 online students.
Founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971, Liberty describes itself as a Christian academic community. It is as renowned for its high academic and sporting ability as its strong moral and spiritual beliefs. Students are held to a strict code of conduct, known as The Liberty Way.
Liberty’s athletic teams compete in Division 1 NCAA sports and are collectively known as the Liberty Flames.
Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo has said he believes Matthew was the ‘last person to see Hannah Graham before she vanished off the face of the face of the earth’.
On Monday night the 32-year-old from Charlottesville was charged with ‘abduction with intent to defile’ 18-year-old student Hannah Graham from Alexandria. After a hunt involving the FBI, he was arrested on a beach in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday and will be brought back to Virginia.
He was also wanted on two counts of reckless driving after he presented himself to police on Saturday, but then he sped off.
It also emerged today that in 2009 Matthew was charged with a felony for attempted grand larceny, misdemeanor assault and trespassing, after he was accused of assaulting someone while trying to steal a cell phone. The charges were eventually dropped. He also has a long list of minor driving offenses to his name.
Matthew grew up in Charlottesville living with his mother and younger sister Nicky. He was often looked after by his grandmother Christine Carr, while his mother Debra worked.
He attended the Red Hill Elementary School just outside the city in Albemarle County. Later he studied at Monticello High School and graduated in his senior year when he was 18.
After his dreams of becoming a professional football player were left in tatters he has had a number of different jobs.
In 2007 he started working for the Yellow Cab taxi company based in Charlottesville.
Later he got a job working in the Transportation Department of UVA Hospital. In recent months he assumed the role of hospital porter, taking patients into the operations room.
However Matthew has continued to be involved in sport.
He is an assistant coach for the Covenant School varsity football team, a private Christian school in Charlottesville.
Matthew is understood to have directed a game from the side line on Friday September 12, the night Hannah Graham went missing.
Matthew was seen leaving the Tempo bar close to Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall with Hannah Graham at about 1.20am last Saturday morning.
He has been identified as the dreadlocked man seen following the 18-year-old on video footage released by investigators.
On Tuesday, authorities announced that they had taken clothing in another search of the 32-year-old nursing-assistant’s home.
However, Charlottesville Police Captain Gary Pleasants declined to comment on the importance of the clothing items or give any further details on what prompted the second search. Police have not yet revealed what prompted the charges being brought on Tuesday, a week after they first searched his apartment and let him go.
According to Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo, Matthew walked into the police station with two relatives on Saturday but quickly left the station after asking to speak to a lawyer.