Jesse Matthew in court for motions hearing

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Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford leaves Albemarle Circuit Court followed by Jesse Matthew's attorneys Michael Hemenway and Doug Ramseur. Staff photo Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford leaves Albemarle Circuit Court followed by Jesse Matthew’s attorneys Michael Hemenway and Doug Ramseur. Staff photo

The Jesse Matthew hearing December 7 was the last court appearance in the charges stemming from the murder and abduction of UVA student Hannah Graham for outgoing Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford, and the man who defeated her in November and will take over the capital case, Robert Tracci, was in the Albemarle courtroom.

Tracci hugged Gil Harrington, mother of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, whom Matthew is also charged with killing. Present, too, was Trina Murphy, great aunt of Nelson teen Alexis Murphy, who disappeared in August 2013.

Judge Cheryl Higgins approved a defense request for a $350-an-hour mental health evaluation by Dr. William Stejskal, who has testified in other high-profile murder cases, most recently in August in Alexandria when he said he’d diagnosed accused serial killer Charles Severance as having a form of schizophrenia.

And in an unusual move, Lunsford objected to the defense withdrawing a motion to exclude evidence and said Matthew’s attorney Doug Ramseur “would rather have this heard when the new commonwealth’s attorney comes into office.”

She also suggested Ramseur wants to withdraw the motion, scheduled to be heard December 17, because a detective who will testify for the prosecution is seriously ill and may not be available, a notion Ramseur rejected.

Ramseur argued that as a death penalty case, it was extremely important to do everything correctly.Motions in the case have been sealed, but when Judge Higgins scheduled the next hearing for January 11, she mentioned that 14 witnesses would be called, which could take a whole day.