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Richmond, Va. — A forensic clue uncovered in the investigation of a missing University of Virginia student has led investigators to believe they have “a significant break” in the unsolved death of another young woman who had vanished from the campus five years ago, police said Monday, and perhaps an unsolved rape from years before.

Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, was charged last week with abduction with intent to defile in the case of 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who was last seen on Sept. 13 after she attended a party.

On Monday, Virginia State Police said in a statement that the arrest “provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue” in the death of 20-year-old Morgan Harrington, who, like Graham, vanished from the Charlottesville campus.

The Virginia Tech student from Roanoke had gone to John Paul Jones Arena for a Metallica concert on Oct. 17, 2009. A farmer found her remains three months later in an Albemarle County hay field, which was among the places searched shortly after Graham disappeared, police have said.

The state police statement provided no specifics about what sort of forensic evidence led to the connection in the cases.

State police said they would have no further comment on the new lead, and neither Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo nor Capt. Gary Pleasants returned telephone messages.

The latest development may also help solve a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax City, since the FBI previously said DNA from Harrington’s attacker matched that of the person who committed the sexual assault. On Monday, police spokeswoman Natalie Hinesley said they are not going to comment on whether the developments in the Graham and Harrington cases affect their case.

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