(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — Virginia police seized a car and searched an apartment Friday in their hunt for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham in what police said was a major break in the case.
The searches were the result of a trio of warrants executed on Friday, according to Charlottesville police. The third warrant was for a phone, police said.
All three search warrants were connected to the same person of interest. It is unclear if this person is the same individual police described Thursday.
Police Chief Timothy Longo said that Friday’s searches “absolutely” marked a major break in the case.
The first warrant was a search and seizure warrant for a vehicle which was executed shortly after midnight. When police arrived at the apartment building and seized the car, a person connected to the car was in his apartment with two others. Police identified those individuals, but the officer did not feel he had the grounds to detain the individuals, Longo said.
After seizing the car and taking it to an undisclosed location for the full search, investigators developed probable cause and sought approvals for the two other warrants. Police arrived back at the apartment shortly after 10 a.m. and the three individuals were no longer inside, Longo said.
The chief said that the search warrants were “not in relation to anyone we’ve talked to.”
The search warrants were issued a day after police announced a $50,000 reward for information about Graham’s disappearance. Police had also released four clips of surveillance footage from local businesses that showed Graham, 18, walking around in the early hours of Saturday morning. She was last heard from around 1:20 a.m. Saturday when she texted friends, allegedly saying that she was headed for a party but was unsure of where she was.
A person of interest described by police Thursday came from a man who was seen following Graham on surveillance footage. That man told police that he was concerned about Graham because she looked “physically distressed,” but he left when he reportedly saw another man approach her and put his arm around her.
That second man has been described by police as a person of interest. He is not seen on any surveillance footage.
Police described the person of interest as a black male in his 20s or early 30s, about 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11 with a shaved head and goatee. He weighed between 250 to 285 pounds, has a slight beer belly and was wearing black jeans and a white T-shirt.
It is not clear whether the person who was the object of Friday’s search warrants matched that description.
The FBI joined the case in guidance role earlier this week and investigators are calling for volunteers as they plan a massive search Saturday. The volunteers are being asked to only join the search if they can walk four to five miles in a wooded area.
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