01:33 - Source: WTVR
Jesse Matthew gets 3 life sentences

Story highlights

A judge imposes the maximum sentence for charges tied to a 2005 sex assault

Jesse Matthew faces murder charges in the cases of Hannah Graham, Morgan Harrington

CNN —  

Jesse Matthew still must await his fate in connection to the disappearance and death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. But whatever happens there, he now looks set to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

A judge sentenced Matthew, 33, to three life sentences Friday for a 2005 incident in which grabbed a 26-year-old woman as she was returning from a Fairfax, Virginia, grocery store and sexually assaulted her, the county’s Commonwealth Attorney Raymond Morrogh told CNN.

Neighbor Stacey Simkins said that he dragged her behind a “dark pool area” before passersby scared him off, according to the FBI.

The sentence is the maximum for the charges that Matthew faced, including attempted murder, abduction with attempt to defile and object sexual penetration. Matthew could be eligible to get out when he turns 60 years old – a geriatric release program that applies to similar cases, Morrogh said.

But that doesn’t mean he’ll get out then, especially considering the other cases against him.

That includes a capital murder charge – which could carry a death sentence – in the September 2014 disappearance and death of the 18-year-old Graham. The skull and bones of the college sophomore were found the next month on abandoned property about 8 miles from where she was last seen in Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall area.

And earlier this month, prosecutors revealed that a grand jury had also indicted Matthew on first-degree murder and abduction with the intent to defile charges in the case of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who went missing in October 2009.

That victim’s mother, Gil Harrington, was in court for Matthew’s sentencing Friday in the 2005 case. She expressed satisfaction that the judge chose to impose the maximum penalty possible, while acknowledging nothing can ever salve her family’s suffering.

“Every vortex of pain and suffering reverts back to Jesse Matthew, who has caused this and the repercussions of this,” Gil Harrington said. “They will go through generations of his family just as they will go through our family.” Matthew has not yet been convicted of wrongdoing in the Harrington case.

Source: DNA in Hannah Graham case links to 2009 death; other cases studied