The Missing or Murdered Young Women in the Commonwealth of Virginia
It is a pain one cannot understand until one has lived it. It is the pain of a missing child found murdered. It is the pain of gut-wrenching fear, profound loss and unfulfilled dreams.
Update October 19. 2014
This article was originally written in early 2014 after another young woman disappeared here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She wasn't the first to disappear along the Route 29 corridor and as you will discover, she wasn't the last. What you are about to read tells the story of the missing and/or murdered young women, the unsolved cases that still haunt those of us who live here. It is what we think about when our children don't come home on time. It is sometimes the last think we think about when we go to sleep at night. It is a horror story that no parent deserves.
Sadly, this update is necessary because it has happened again. The missing is now the murdered. Another young woman, missing for five weeks, has been found. Her skeletal remains lay dumped on an abandoned property less than 12 miles from where she was last seen alive. The remains are believed to be Hannah Elizabeth Graham, a University of Virginia student who disappeared around midnight on Friday, September 12, 2014. If you have any information on Hannah Graham, please contact law enforcement.
Watch the Press Conference
Hannah Elizabeth Graham
It's been five weeks to the day since Hannah Graham was last seen alive. Jesse Matthew has been arrested in Texas for abduction with intent to defile. Previously identified as a person of interest, Jesse Matthew, an employee of the University of Virginia Medical Center was the last person seen with Hannah on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. Jesse Matthew walked into the police station a few days ago and asked for a lawyer. He was provided a list of attorneys and after meeting briefly with an attorney, Jesse left the police station and sped away recklessly. Law enforcement called off pursuit for the safety of other motorists. .Police obtained a warrant for his arrest.
For 35 consecutive days hundreds of people searched for Hannah Graham. They covered the city of Charlottesville and the surrounding area. Realtors were asked to search their vacant properties and land owners were asked to search their properties. Helicopters, drones, dogs, airplanes with enhanced digital recorders, and all terrain vehicles were used to cover the area. From sunrise to sunset, volunteers searched on foot through thick brush and mountainous terrain for signs of Hannah Graham. At 5:30 P.M. on October 18, 2014, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo held a press conference. With tears in his eyes and a voice that cracked with emotion, he announced the discovery of skeletal remains. Without confirming that the remains belonged to Hannah, we knew. For a time it seemed that the world stood still. Prayers had been answered. Hannah had been found. Her family would have closure. But, we are angry. A monster took Hannah's life and it has left us wondering about the others. Did Jesse Mathhew take the others too?
Learn More About Hannah Elizabeth Graham
- InsideCville.com | Coy Barefoot
This talented and compassionate journalist has reported from Charlottesville since Hannah Graham disappeared.
- Timeline: The search for Hannah Graham - The Washington Post
University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, 18, who is from Fairfax County, spent the night of Friday, Sept. 12, socializing and drinking with friends in Charlottesville, but hasn't been seen since the early morning hours of Sept. 13. A massive sea
- Police now offering $100k reward for information on missing UVA student Hannah Graham | Daily Mail O
Frustrated police in Charlottesville, Virginia, have admitted they do not know where the 18-year-old is, two weeks after her disappearance, and are offering money for help with the case.
- Search area for Hannah Elizabeth Graham, missing University of Virginia student, expands after polic
We believe Hannah has been found. The pain for her family and friends must be unbearable. The story doesn't end here though. In fact it may only be the beginning. DNA evidence has connected Jesse Matthew to another case; the case of Morgan Harrington whose skeletal remains were found just a few short miles from Hannah's after she disappeared exactly five years ago on October 17, 2009.
Have we identified the monster? Is there more than one? The parents of the other missing young women deserve answers too. So, now let's look at the original article for the rest of the story.
The Missing and/or Murdered Young Women in Virginia
Another young woman has been murdered in my area. Only 18 years old, Jamisha Gilbert had her whole life ahead of her. What could she have done to deserve such a brutal end? You see, Jamisha was murdered and her body dumped like a bag of trash in a wooded area near a cemetery.
For the past week the news has reported on the search for Jamisha Gilbert. Images of law enforcement and volunteer searchers flashed across our television screens. Helicopters and dogs assisted in the search. A family and community grieved but held on to the hope that this eighteen year old honor student would be found alive. They fought back tears and struggled to believe this wasn’t happening again, not here, not now.
You see, Jamisha isn’t the first. Only five months ago, there was another face on our television screens. Alexis Murphy, age 17, went missing on August 3, 2013. Beautiful and smart, Alexis disappeared after filling her car up with gas in Lovingston, Virginia. An arrest was made in her murder and Randy Taylor has been convicted but, Alexis Murphy has still not been found. Her family waits for answers (and justice) and a community grieves with them.
Learn more about missing women along the Route 29 corridor
The faces of the missing or murderedClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Harsh Reminder
The stories of Jamisha Gilbert and Alexis Murphy remind us of other tragic crimes against young women in Virginia. We are reminded of Morgan Harrington, a beautiful young woman who disappeared from a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Virginia on October 17, 2009. Skeletal remains were found on a farm in nearby Albemarle County on January 26, 2910 and identified as the remains of Morgan Harrington. Morgan was 20 years old when she was abducted and murdered. Her killer remains unidentified and, free.
As our hearts ache for the families of these three young women, our thoughts turn to the others; the dozens of young women who have vanished along the Route 29 corridor in Virginia. And the questions remain. Who murdered 25 year old Alicia Reynolds and left her body to be found two months later on the side of the road? Did the same monster kill 24 year old Julianne Williams and 26 year old Laura Winans whose bodies were discovered in their Shenandoah National Park camp site? And there is 20 year old Anne McDaniel. He burned body was found four days after she disappeared. We ask ourselves what happened to 19 year old Samantha Clark who vanished in September of 2010. She told her brother she would be right back. He is still waiting for answers.
These stories of pain have become too familiar. The names change, the circumstances vary, and the points on a map represent different geographic locations but the outcome doesn’t change. Our children are dying alone and scared and we don’t know why.
- The numbers are shocking. In the Commonwealth of Virginia there are currently 240 children listed as missing on the Virginia State Police web site.
- On the web site for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a search reveals the faces of 184 children missing in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This same web site shows 665 children listed as missing in the United States.
- Since 2009, fifteen young women have vanished along the Route 29 corridor in Virginia.
Qyestions and Answers
It is only natural that we want answers when a child goes missing and/or is found murdered. Sadly, we often find ourselves with more questions than answers. I realize that once a child reaches puberty, it is all but impossible to watch them every minute. I also understand that some of the statistics I’ve shared may represent parental or familial abductions. But in many cases, these children just vanished at the hands of an acquaintance or, a total stranger.
Both of the young women whose faces are still prevalent on the local news were alone. Both had been in touch with family just hours before they disappeared. One was approximately 40 miles from home and the other less than 10 miles from home. Both had cell phones. Family and friends tell us that both were bright, well rounded teens. Both were pretty, out-gping, and, popular. These were not the kind of girls who run away from home. These were not the girls who ran with the wrong crowd. These were good girls according to friends and family. So why have these beautiful young women become part of a growing statistic?
- Were they taught to fight off an abductor?
- Did they scream for help?
- Did they know and trust their abductor?
- Did someone see something suspicious and choose to ignore it?
There are many more questions to be answered but unfortunately, most will go unanswered. What we will come to know about these abductions and murders will largely reply on forensic evidence collected by law enforcement and, stories told by friends and family. In time an investigation will put the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle but we may never know the truth/. The person(s) responsible for the deaths of these young women may never be punished.
History tells us that the murder of innocents is not new but the increasing number of young people dying is becoming an epidemic in our society. What has happened in our society that makes murder seem like the answer to a problem? Have we become so disconnected from those around us that we can kill without caring? Did we push too hard for perfection in academics or sports that our young youth are so afraid of failure that they take their frustration out on those that cannot or are afraid to fight back? What about respect and decency? Have we made it seem okay for a man to take what he wants from a young woman and then cut her throat and leave her to die alone on the cold, hard ground? If these things are true then we have created a world where no one is safe and the consequences will make this current epidemic seem like a day in the park. If these things are true, this epidemic will touch each one us eventually. Are we willing to lose someone we love because we felt it was someone elses problem?
- Polly Klass Foundation - Child Safety
We help families find their runaway and missing children, and we prevent children from going missing by showing parents how to teach safety to their children. We offer child search assistance, missing child poster distribution, and a free Child Safet
- Help Save The Next Girl | Home
You can help save the next girl. Click to learn how.
A Facebbok community for missing teens.
Life is about choices and the choices we make have consequences on the present and for future generations. As a society, we have to stop wasting time. If we do nothing else we can become examples for each other. We can take better care of ourselves and treat the members of our families with respect. We can demonstrate the value of trust and honesty with out spouse and children, and strive to provide an environment of love and protection for them to grow in. We can become the place our children turn to for answers because we have demonstrated our trust and belief in them. We can mentor the youth in our community who are at risk and force ourselves to look deeply when it would be easier to look away. We can get to know our neighbors in spite of our apparent differences. We can be the architects of bridges among people by offering a helping hand or a concerned ear to those who have neither. And, we can stop turning a blind eye when we see others facing adversity. Like it or not, we are not separate from the world around us. The things that affect one of us, can affect all of us.
- Social Issues: Choice and Consequence
Most of ys know that there is a price to pay for the choices we make. What makes some willing to pay a higher price than others? How can we salvage the futures of our children before it's too late?
Nothing we do will stop the senseless killing overnight. The young women who die at the hands of their abductors will continue to be headlines in our newspapers. Families will continue to seek answers and justice and find neither in many cases. One thing is certain though. If we do nothing, nothing will change.
The young women mentioned here should not die in vain. It is up to all of us to make their lives count for something. Will you become an advocate against violence? Will you mentor a young woman and help her learn how to protect herself against predators? Will you educate yourself and become a resource for a young woman who is scared and doesn’t know where to go? Will you demonstrate love and help eradicate the prevailing anger in our society? Will you? Or, will you wait until violence touches your child or your grandchild and then blame it on everyone else? Think about it. Do it now, before another young woman goes from “missing” to “murdered”.
© 2013 Linda Crist