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Report: U.Va. abduction suspect linked to 2009 disappearance

Jesse Matthew, left, was arrested Sept. 24, 2014 in connection with the disappearance of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, right.

CBS/WTVR

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The abduction suspect in the case of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham is linked forensically to the 2009 disappearance of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, sources close to the Graham investigation told CBS affiliate WTVR.

Virginia State Police confirmed the link in a written statement.

The sources said that forensic evidence belonging to the suspect, Jesse Matthew Jr., matched forensic evidence collected during the Harrington investigation, reports the station. It's not clear what the evidence is or what the link may be, but the station reports that it indicates Harrington had "some sort of contact" with Matthew the night she disappeared after a rock concert outside John Paul Jones arena in Charlottesville on October 17, 2009.

Harrington's remains were found three months later, in January 2010, on a farm in rural Albemarle County.

"For the past five years, the Virginia State Police has been aggressively pursuing the investigation into the disappearance and death of 20-year-old Morgan D. Harrington of Roanoke, Va.," Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller wrote in an email to the station following its report. "Last week, the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville, Va., provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue. There is a still a great deal of work to be done in regards to this investigation and we appreciate the public's patience as we move forward."

Speaking with WTVR, Harrington's mother Gil said: "We worked five years to get to this point, so we are relieved."

Two years after Harrington's remains were found, the FBI released a sketch of a man they said had contact with her after investigators found forensic evidence that linked a 2005 sex assault in Fairfax to Harrington's disappearance, reports the station.

Matthew has been charged with abduction with intent to defile in the case of Hannah Graham, who vanished in the early morning hours of Sept. 13 after attending two off-campus parties and texting a friend that she was lost.

Recorded images showed Graham walking unsteadily and running at times, past a pub and a service station and then onto the Downtown Mall - a seven-block pedestrian strip. That's where she apparently met Matthew, and Charlottesville police chief Tim Longo said Thursday that police have no reason to believe they knew each other beforehand.

Police have said they believe Graham went to a bar with him and may have been in Matthew's car when he left.

Matthew was arrested Wednesday camping on a beach near Galveston, Texas after a tipster who recognized his photo from television called police. Before his arrest, the 32-year-old Matthew had last been seen speeding away from police in Charlottesville after walking into police station and requesting a lawyer.

Matthew was extradited back to Charlottesville on Friday evening.

CBS News has learned that Matthew was previously investigated on a complaint of rape 12 years ago when he was a student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. No criminal charges were filed, but a football teammate told CBS News Matthew was dismissed from the school.

A source told CBS News last week that local law enforcement along with FBI are looking into the possibility that Matthew may be connected to other young women who have vanished from the Charlottesville area over the last five years.

Hannah Graham and Harrington are among five young women or girls in five years to vanish within a few miles of Route 29, the main highway which runs through Charlottesville.

Nineteen-year-old Samantha Ann Clarke vanished after leaving her Orange County town house in September 2010; 19-year-old DaShad Laquinn Smith disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012; and 17-year-old Alexis Murphy was last seen near Lynchburg, Va. in August of 2013, her car having been found in Charlottesville.

Randolph Taylor was convicted in May of Murphy's abduction and murder, though her body has never been found.

The search for Hannah Graham continues, and Longo last week announced that crews were moving to rural areas south of Charlottesville and urged property owners to check their own lots.

When asked whether property owners should be on the lookout for signs of a deceased person, Longo said he still has hope that Graham is alive.

"I can't lose hope until I have to - until I need to," Longo said. "I have hope, I think Hannah's mom and dad have hope, but we all know as each day goes by, that hope will diminish."

Anyone with information about Hannah Graham's disappearance is urged to call the tip line at 434-295-3851 or email CPDtips@charlottesville.org.

Anyone with new information about the Morgan Harrington investigation is asked to contact the Virginia State Police at 434-352-3467 or the Jefferson Area Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.