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Cops seek person of interest in missing U.Va. student case

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Charlottesville police have released a description of a male they're calling a person of interest who was reportedly seen with missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham on the morning she vanished.

Graham disappeared early Saturday after eating dinner with friends and attending two house parties, leaving the second one alone. She was last heard from at 1:20 a.m. that morning when she texted a friend to say she was lost after leaving the party.

Based on a witness' description, police say the person of interest they are looking for is a black male, between five feet ten and five feet 11 inches tall, 250-285 pounds, with a close-shaved head, goatee, and a slight "beer belly," reports CBS affiliate WTVR.

They say the man, in his late 20s or early 30s, was reportedly wearing black jeans and a white tee shirt and was last seen by a witness who says he saw Graham on Charlottesville's downtown pedestrian mall between one and 1:15 a.m. the morning she disappeared.

Police say the witness, who is seen on newly-released surveillance footage apparently following Graham, claims he saw her with the man who approached her and put her arm around her.

That witness has come forward to police, saying the teen seemed physically distressed and he "wanted to make sure she got safely wherever she was going," reports the station. He also reportedly called in to a tipline with the information.

The witness first appears on a video from a pizza shop along the pedestrian mall at 1:06 a.m. Saturday. It shows him walking into the camera's view, looking over his shoulder, and stepping into a doorway as Graham walks past him. After she passes, the witness starts walking behind her.

The second video is from a camera inside a jewelry shop, also on the pedestrian mall, showing Graham walking with the same man some distance behind her at 1:08 a.m., reports the station.

The man told police he saw another man approach Graham and put his arm around her, reports the station. He said Graham didn't react and seemed to know him. The two started talking, the witness said, adding it appeared he was "either known to Ms. Graham or was trying to help her."

The witness said he went on his way, and that Graham and other man were still talking as he left, reports WTVR.

The second man is not seen on the surveillance video.

In recent days, a series of videos have emerged as police have canvassed Charlottesville businesses, asking for any security footage that may have captured images of the teen. Investigators have used the videos to re-trace Graham's steps in the time period before she sent the text. The second-year student was seen walking near a downtown pub,and running past a gas station before she was seen on the pedestrian mall.

Anyone with information about Graham or the person of interest is asked to call the tipline at (434) 295-3851.

A total reward with contributions from the City of Charlottesville, the University of Virginia, and local individuals and businesses totals $50,000 for information that leads to the cause of Graham's disappearance.