Authorities and volunteers have been looking for University of Virginia student Hannah Graham since she was last seen on the night of Sept. 12 but without success. Recent developments in the case indicate the possibility that the missing 18-year old may already be dead.
On Saturday, authorities who were looking for the British-born student have found human remains in a deserted property eight miles away from where Graham was last seen several weeks ago.
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said that members of the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department who were helping in the search found the remains in an abandoned property in the southern Albemarle County, Virginia.
The police have called off search plans on Sunday so law enforcers could focus on what could potentially be a new evidence of the case albeit the authorities said they cannot yet confirm whether or not the remains are indeed those of the missing student.
"Today's discovery is a significant development and we have a great deal of work ahead of us," said Albermarle County Police chief Steve Sellers. "We cannot and we will not jump to any conclusions regarding today's discovery, so I ask for the public's patience as we move forward and pursue what is now a new ongoing death investigation."
Graham's parents had already been informed about the discovery.
"These are human remains and forensic tests need to be conducted to determine the identification...," Longo said. "But nonetheless we wanted to be quick and timely to share that information with the Graham family."
The remains happened to have been found in the same region where authorities discovered the body of Virginia Tech student who went missing in 2009. The remains of 20 year old Morgan Harrington were found three months after she disappeared.
32-year old Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., the primary suspect for Graham's case, is also linked to Harrington's 2009 case prompting a renewed interest in the unsolved cases of missing and murdered young women that were possibly perpetrated by a serial attacker that operates across Virginia.
Harrington's unsolved murder case was also linked to a 2005 sexual assault in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. Two universities in Virginia have disclosed that as an enrolled student, Matthew had been accused of rape in 2002 and 2003 but the accusers decided not to press charges.
Experts said that the sporadic attacks that are now linked with Matthew characterize the profile of a person whose assaults are sandwiched between long cooling off periods.
Matthew, who is currently held in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, is facing charges for abduction with intent to sexually assault Graham. The preliminary hearing for the case is scheduled on Dec. 4.