Volunteers Continue Search for Missing UVa. Student - NBC Connecticut
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Volunteers Continue Search for Missing UVa. Student

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Volunteers began a search Saturday for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. News4's David Culver reports. (Published Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014)

    Hundreds of people are scouring Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend for clues in the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, as they mark one week since the 18-year-old was last seen.

    The volunteers boarded buses and headed out to strategic search zones in the hopes of finding something, anything that leads to her. On Saturday, the 1,100 searchers covered about 65% of the search area.

    Officials hope to cover the remaining areas on Sunday. A press conference has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday and is expected to be an update on the weekend activities.

    Meanwhile, police say they have had contact with a person of interest in the case, who they say was seen on surveillance video following the teenager along the city's Downtown Mall just after 1 a.m. Sept. 13. The person has not been formally questioned by police nor has he been called a suspect.

    The man -- dressed in white and with long dreadlocks -- is later seen wrapping his arm around Graham's waist. Police say the two then entered a Charlottesville restaurant during the early morning hours of Sept. 13, where the man bought alcohol and later left in a burnt-orange car.

    "We have every reason to believe Ms. Graham was in that vehicle," said Detective Sgt. Jim Mooney of Charlotteville police.

    Friday, police searched the man's apartment and car and even talked to him -- but stopped short at calling him a suspect. When asked if the man had a criminal history, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said he has "had contact with police."

    "Let me just say: We are interested in him. We are interested in talking to him and interested in his interactions with Hannah," Longo said.

    Longo said that after authorities released information on the person of interest in the case Thursday night, they received at least one tip that led them to a car parked at the Hessian Hills Way address, about 10 minutes from the University of Virginia grounds.

    Authorities arrived after midnight Friday. As they executed the search warrant on the vehicle, officers found "sufficient probable cause" to search the residence, Longo said.

    Longo also said he has spoken with Graham's parents following Friday's developments.

    "They want their daughter back. They want to know what happened to their little girl, that's all. And that's what I want and that's what you want, so we gotta do this together," Long said, during a news conference that was at times very emotional.

    Longo said there were 3 people inside the apartment during the search of the vehicle, but that no one is there anymore. He said police took their names.

    Charlottesville police are being assisted by the Albemarle County Police Department and Virginia State Police, Longo said.

    Other surveillance video of Graham shows her around Charlottesville's downtown mall. A man shown in those surveillance videos has already spoken with police. Initially, police called him a "cooperative person of interest," but on Friday, they described him as a witness.

    At 1:06 a.m., a camera at Sal's Restaurant recorded the witness walking in front of Graham, stopping and then walking behind her. Two minutes later, a camera at Tuel Jewelers, also on the mall, recorded Graham walking with another woman while the same man followed her. 

    Pleasants told NBC29 late Wednesday evening they spoke with that man, who told officers he noticed Graham was disoriented and he wanted to help her.

    He told police that after he spoke with her, he saw a second man speaking to Graham and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. The witness said it appeared as though the man was also concerned about Graham or possibly that he knew her.

    On Thursday evening, thousands of U.Va. students gathered at a vigil to honor Graham, even bringing several of her favorite things -- a U.K. flag, skis and strawberry Starburst candy. Her best friends wrote a letter to Graham and read it out loud at the packed outdoor amphitheater.

    Earlier in that day, police announced that, with the help of U.Va., local businesses and Charlottesville residents, they will offer a $50,000 reward for information in Graham's disappearance.

    Anyone with information regarding Graham's whereabouts is asked to call a 24/7 tipline at 434-295-3851. Police say they've received more than 200 tips so far.

    "Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends," said Graham's family in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "She is highly responsible and organized. She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends."