CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was the kind of guy who would bust your lip, then regretfully drive you to the hospital. A “cool individual” around other guys, but a bit too “touchy-feely” with the ladies, family friend Rod Brown says.

“He doesn’t mean to be creepy; he’s just a little off, just a little awkward,” says Brown, who’s known “LJ” for about 15 years. “If he gets around women, I’ve never seen it NOT be awkward.”

Authorities say Matthew’s interactions with women went way beyond awkward.

The former college football lineman and sometime cab driver is in jail on a charge of “abduction with intent to defile” in the Sept. 13 disappearance of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham. Police say forensic evidence also connects the 32-year-old Charlottesville man to the 2009 murder of another college student, which in turn is linked by DNA to a 2005 sexual assault in northern Virginia.

Friends expressed shock that this “gentle giant” – he’s 6-foot-2 and weighs 270 pounds – could be suspected of such violence. But court records reveal a man capable of explosive rage, and hounded from one college, then another by allegations of sexual assault.

Defense attorney James Camblos III has said only that Matthew comes from a “hardworking, blue-collar” family.

Matthew wrestled, played football and ran track at Charlottesville’s Albemarle High School. Then in 1998, his junior year, he was transferred from overcrowded Albemarle to the newly completed Monticello High, and his parents separated.

Debra Carr Matthew retained custody of Jesse and his younger sister, Latasha. Court records show Jesse Matthew Sr., with a history of public intoxication arrests and one misdemeanor indecent-exposure conviction, was living an hour away and owed thousands of dollars in support.

The younger Matthew seemed destined to rise above all this. He became co-captain of the Monticello football squad as a senior, and then enrolled in psychology at Liberty University, where he played defensive lineman for the Flames.

His college career took a sharp wrong turn in his junior year, when a fellow student accused Matthew of raping her. Matthew withdrew from Liberty on Oct. 17, 2002 – hours after a reported sexual assault behind the university’s sports arena. The university said privacy laws prevent disclosing more details, or explaining why Matthew withdrew. Prosecutors said the case was dropped when the woman declined to press charges.

Matthew returned to school in January 2003, enrolling at Christopher Newport University in southeast Virginia, but the second act was short-lived.

On Sept. 7, 2003, a fellow student accused him of sexual assault on the Newport News campus. Five days after the attack, Matthew dropped off the team roster; a month later, he was gone.

Back in Charlottesville, Matthew started driving a taxi.

On June, 4, 2009, Matthew allegedly was involved in a case of road rage, boxing in a driver who he said cut him off and punching him in the face.

About two months later, on Oct. 17, 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, disappeared. Her remains were found several months later in an Albemarle County hayfield.

Police had no real leads on her killer, but they now had DNA to work with.

Hannah Graham was last seen disappearing into the early morning darkness of Sept. 13, when a jewelry store’s surveillance camera captured Matthew walking off with his arm around her.