The parents of a Virginia Tech student who was abducted and killed five years ago have issued a plea to the suspect in the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham -- one day after police said the two cases could have a forensic link.
"I would like to appeal to him to please give the family information about where Hannah is. We need to find Hannah Graham. It is vital," said Gil Harrington, the mother of Morgan Harrington, during an appearance on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday morning.
Police have not said what kind of evidence links 32-year-old Jesse Matthew to both Harrington's death and Graham's Sept. 13 disappearance.
But this latest development may also help solve the 2005 sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in Fairfax City, since the FBI previously said DNA from Harrington's attacker matched that of the person who committed that assault.
On Monday, City of Fairfax police spokesperson Natalie Hinesley said that in order to maintain the integrity of their investigation, they are not going to comment on whether the developments in the Graham and Harrington cases affect their case.
Both Graham and Harrington were walking alone, separated from their friends late at night, and on or near the University of Virginia campus when they disappeared. Harrington's father, Dan Harrington, said he was struck by the similarities in their cases, but didn't think the two were linked until recently.
"I thought it seemed very similar to Morgan's situation with sort of the question of her maybe being somewhat impaired, someone just picking her up and trying to take care of her," Dan Harrington said. "But it really came to light to me about two weeks ago when I saw a picture of the sketch as compared to Jesse... I thought, 'Oh my God, I think it's the same person."
Matthew's attorney, James Camblos, told NBC News that he met with his client in jail for two and half hours Tuesday.
Camblos said that the "Commonweath has yet to provide me with any evidence of links to those two cases," referring to the disappearance of Hannah Graham and the homicide of Morgan Harrington, NBC News reported.
Camblos said he would not comment on any possible links to other unsolved cases in the area, such as the 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax.
Morgan Harrington's parents have been actively involved in the search for Graham, posting flyers and joining volunteers in the physical search for the 18-year-old second-year student. They continue to urge the community to share any tips they may have about Graham's disappearance or the death of their own daughter.
"We have experienced firsthand the anguish of having you child missing, and we both feel that period of time was more difficult for us than actually knowing Morgan was dead," Gil added. "We are desperate to find Hannah Graham, so that her family has some answers.
Morgan was a student at Virginia Tech when she disappeared in October 2009 after attending a rock concert at John Paul Jones Arena at UVa. Her remains were found three months later in a field in Albemarle County in Virginia.
Matthew has been charged with abduction with intent to defile in connection with Graham's disappearance. Police arrested him last Wednesday after he was found on a beach near Galveston, Texas.
He has a bond hearing 10 a.m. Thursday and will appear in front of a judge via video.
Monday's Virginia State Police statement also said that authorities continue to search for Graham, who was Graham was reported missing Sept. 14, the day after she was captured on surveillance videos as she walked alone along Charlottesville's downtown mall.
Police have identified Matthew, a hospital worker, as the last person to be seen with Graham early on the morning of Sept. 13.
Morgan's parents said they had never heard Matthew's name before police identified him as a suspect in Graham's case.
"The Virginia State Police is notoriously and consistently close-mouthed. They hold information very tight, and I understand the reason for that," Gil said. "...[N]ow that Mr. Matthew is back in custody, they have him and have plenty of time to unravel this snarl of information that's around him."
Shortly after their daughter's death, the Harrington's established "Help Save the Next Girl," a non-profit organization that aims to "sensitize young women and girls to predatory danger."
"We have worked over the last five years to raise awareness...of the need for safety and watching out for others, as well as personal responsibility," Dan said. "It is sad, and we're sad that this has happened. Perhaps this is now a way for us to not have future events like this occur in central Virginia."