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Major break: Police search car, apartment in case of missing Virginia student

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Hannah Elizabeth Graham

Charlottesville, Virginia (CNN) — Authorities looking for a missing University of Virginia student have made a major break in the case, searching an apartment and a vehicle in the college town Friday morning, said Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo.

Longo said three males were present when police arrived to search the apartment, but no one was detained or questioned.

One of the three men matched the description of a “person of interest” in the investigation into missing 19-year-old Hannah Elizabeth Graham, but there was no probable cause to detain him or the other two men, Longo said.

The three men were identified and allowed to leave the scene, which they did, police said.

The person of interest is related to the vehicle that was searched and seized, but it was not clear if he is the owner, police said.

The first search began when police arrived 4 a.m. Friday to search the vehicle, but Longo declined to say what led investigators to the vehicle in their hunt for the whereabouts of Graham, who was last seen Saturday. Her parents fear foul play was involved.

The vehicle search then led police to seek a search warrant for a local apartment, authorities said.

Longo also declined to say what evidence may have been gathered in the search of the apartment, where no one was inside. Longo said they don’t know where the residents are, and no one has been questioned.

No one is in custody, and a vehicle was impounded and is being checked for forensic evidence, authorities said.

Investigators are offering a $50,000 reward for “information leading to the cause” of her disappearance, police said.

A man who was captured on business surveillance cameras told officers he was following Graham because she looked distressed and that he saw Graham with another man, and the two appeared to know each other, police said.

That other man has become a “person of interest,” police said.

Graham, a sophomore, is described as a straight-A student, and an accomplished athlete from northern Virginia. She’s about 5-foot-11 with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles, the university said in a release asking for tips about the teen’s disappearance.

Graham left a dinner with a group of friends around 11 p.m. last Friday. Around 1:20 a.m. Saturday, she sent a text to friends saying she was lost, CNN affiliate WTVR reported.

Police believe she may have been under the influence of alcohol, Longo said, and may have been vulnerable or unable to defend herself.

Her parents attend a candlelight vigil Thursday night organized by students, which the couple described as “extremely moving.”

“We were comforted by the evident high esteem in which our cherished daughter is held by her many friends at the University of Virginia and beyond,” John and Sue Graham said in a statement. “We continue to be optimistic that Hannah will soon be returned safely to us.”

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