- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) - A former girlfriend of Jesse Matthew - who is accused of raping and killing multiple women - says he himself was raped as a child.

Lawyers for Matthew are asking a judge to consider Matthew’s difficult upbringing ahead of his sentencing this week for a 2005 sexual assault.

Matthew is awaiting trial in the killings of college students Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington. Graham’s disappearance last year prompted a national search for her attacker. Matthew was arrested in Texas, and authorities say DNA from that case links him to the slaying of Harrington and the 2005 attack on a woman in Fairfax County.

In June, Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, was convicted of the Fairfax assault. He will be sentenced Friday in that case and could get life in prison.

In a letter to the judge made public Tuesday, the girlfriend, whose full name was not included in the letter, said Matthew was sexually abused by at least three different people.

The woman, who said she dated the man known to friends as L.J. from 2003 to 2005 after meeting him at Christopher Newport University, said he “was sexually abused by at least three different individuals (that I’m aware of) through his elementary school years. One individual in particular raped him on several occasions and forced L.J. to keep it a secret. I have no doubt this repeated sexual trauma during his developmental years played a key role in the allegations against him.”

She said Matthew was reluctant to discuss the assaults and would become despondent if it came up. She said she thought he sought out therapy once or twice because but couldn’t afford continued sessions.

In another letter, Matthew’s mother, Debra Carr, begged for mercy from the judge.

Carr wrote that “Jesse has always shown respect to everyone around him regardless if he knew you or not.”

Other family members said they can’t reconcile the Matthew they knew - a state champion wrestler and football player who earned a full scholarship to Liberty University, with a demeanor described as a teddy bear - with the allegations of a serial sexual predator.

“I still can’t come to terms with how such a loving generous outgoing person could do such things,” wrote his sister, Latasha Matthew. “I am stuck for words.”

A nine-page sentencing memorandum filed by public defender Dawn Butorac does not ask for a specific prison term for Matthew. It asks the judge to consider Matthew’s difficult upbringing and the fact that he is a first-time offender.

Butorac declined to comment on the letters filed with the sentencing memorandum, which appeared to be the first mention that Matthew may have been sexually assaulted as a child.

Prosecutors have not yet said whether they will ask for a life sentence. When Matthew pleaded guilty to the charges in June, he did so by way of an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit guilt but acknowledged the government had sufficient evidence to convict him. The guilty plea removed the jury from its role in recommending a sentence. The sentence is solely up to Judge David Schell.

On Wednesday, Matthew faces a pretrial hearing in Albemarle County in connection with the Harrington and Graham killings. If convicted of Graham’s murder, Matthew could face a death sentence.

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