1,550 volunteers to search Charlottesville for Hannah Graham

1,550 volunteers to search Charlottesville for Hannah Graham

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) - It hosts concerts and the Cavaliers, but the John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia transformed into the center of a massive search effort Friday, to find missing student Hannah Graham.

The arena will be the base of a massive volunteer search Saturday, with 1,550 volunteers sweeping Charlottesville from 8 a.m. until sunset.

UVA students and nearby residents waited in a line stretching two blocks to enter the arena, all for an evening briefing before Saturday's search.

"The fact that someone in our community has been hurt, it affects all of us," said UVA student Megan Tracy in an interview. "So hopefully tomorrow, we can make some progress."

Volunteers will be divided into teams, and will be directed by team leaders as groups search different parts of the city.

As volunteers filled the seats facing the basketball court, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. delivered specific instructions on how to conduct the search effort.

"You're looking for, most likely, physical evidence," Longo said. "Things like clothing, particularly clothing… We're talking about anything that looks like Hannah's sparkly sequin silver top or black capri pants."

Each team of volunteers will search for a maximum of four hours, and can only cover public property. If anything on private land appears suspicious, volunteers are urged to take pictures, and send police the photos from their cell phones.

"We know you'll be tempted to pick up lots of things along the way, but do not do that," Longo told the crowd. "That physical evidence could contain fibers, hair, what we call trace evidence. It could link back to people who had contact with the evidence."

Thoughts of still-missing teenager Alexis Murphy pervaded the arena, when Murphy's great-aunt Trina Murphy addressed the volunteers.

"I think about a year ago when so many people showed up for Alexis," she said. "We have to find Hannah. It's not an option, not to."

Graham has been missing since early Saturday, Sept. 13. She was last seen leaving the Tempo Restaurant and Bar in Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, with a man who police are calling a person of interest.

The man is 32 years old, 6"2', has dreadlocks, and weighs approximately 270 lbs.

Charlottesville Police searched the man's home at the Hessian Hills apartments Friday and seized his car. The man has not been arrested.

Detectives say the person of interest purchased alcohol and within 15 minutes, he and Graham left the restaurant. Investigators believe Graham and the man left in his 1998 orange Chrysler Coupe.

Police said they know where to find the person of interest, and have chosen not to release his name. Any tips can be sent to the Charlottesville Police Department at (434) 295-3851.

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