Charge upgraded to capital murder in Hannah Graham's death

Jesse Matthew

CBS affiliate WUSA

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. -Jesse Matthew, Jr., the man accused in the abduction and murder of second-year University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, appeared in court Tuesday afternoon where his case was upgraded to capital murder.

The charge mean Matthew will be eligible for the death penalty, reports CBS affiliate WTVR.

Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford said new forensic evidence obtained in late February made her go to a grand jury again and seek an increased charge.

"If this matter goes to trial, the Commonwealth will seek the death penalty," Lunsford said.

With the upgraded charge, Matthew is now entitled to two capital certified attorneys. There is also an automatic appeal for capital murder cases.

Matthew, 32, is charged in relation to Graham's Sept. 13, 2014 disappearance of Graham. The 18-year-old student vanished after attending two off-campus house parties and sending a text to a friend that she was lost. Police say they believe she was with Matthew at Charlottesville's downtown pedestrian mall.

Matthew was arrested days later after he was spotted on a beach near Galveston, Texas.

Graham's parents were in the courtroom, along with Gil Harrington, whose daughter Morgan was killed in 2009. Gil Harrington said she believes Matthew was responsible for Morgan's death. A warrant reveals a DNA connection between Matthew and Morgan Harrington, but no charges have been filed against Matthew in Harrington's disappearance.

When Matthew entered the courtroom, he made direct eye contact with Graham's parents, and with Harrington, reports WTVR.

"I'll be satisfied if this particular predator never is able to hurt anyone again. That was always my intent, to save the next girl. Unfortunately, we couldn't save Hannah Graham," said Harrington.

Matthew's mother, father, uncle and girlfriend were all present at Tuesday's hearing and left the courtroom with no comment.

Matthew will return to court on June 25.