Virginia police said human remains have been found during the search for Hannah Graham, the University of Virginia student who has been missing for more than a month.
Volunteer searchers discovered the unidentified body at about noon Saturday in an “abandoned property” along Old Lynchburg Road in the Walnut Creek Park area of Albemarle County, authorities said at a Saturday evening press conference.
Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo said the remains would be taken to the office of Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner for forensic testing and identification.
Longo said Graham’s parents had been notified of the discovery. He said volunteers working with Chesterfield County sheriff’s deputies were searching the property on Old Lynchburg Road when they discovered the remains.
Albemarle County Police Chief Steve Sellers said, “This, sadly, is now a death investigation. We will not jump to any conclusions after today’s discovery.”
In September, police charged 32-year-old Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. with abduction with intent to defile in Graham’s disappearance. His attorney, Jim Camblos, issued a statement late Saturday night.
“I understand the search teams found remains on an abandoned farm in Albemarle County. We are waiting to see the results of the medical examiners autopsy. No further comment.”
Albemarle County Police now are asking anyone who saw suspicious activity or suspicious vehicles near Old Lynchburg Road to contact them at 434-296-5807. Neighbors in the area said they had been smelling a foul odor a few days ago.
Emergency management officials, meanwhile, canceled Sunday’s planned search for Graham. Hundreds of volunteers have joined Charlottesville, Albemarle County and state authorities for a series of searches since Graham disappeared.
The scene where the remains were found is about five miles from where searchers in 2009 found the body of Morgan Harrington, a student from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg who had gone missing after a concert in Charlottesville.
Virginia state police have said there was a “forensic link” between Graham’s disappearance and Harrington’s murder.
Graham was reported missing on September 12 after a night with friends. She was last seen on surveillance video in Charlottesville’s downtown mall in the early morning hours of September 13.
The surveillance video shows a man police identified as Matthew wrapping his arm around Graham. He is also accused of buying the 18-year-old woman alcohol.
Two weeks after Graham’s disappearance, Matthew — a hospital worker and former taxi driver — was arrested in Texas. He has been extradited to Virginia, where he is in custody.
Matthew is not due for a court appearance in the case until December. Investigators believe Matthew acted alone and did not know Graham before her disappearance.