Valerie Hamilton, Police Chief's Daughter, 'Left Willingly' With Murder Suspect

Friends Remember Police Chiefs Daughters Last Night AlivePlayABC News
WATCH Hunt for Valerie Hamilton's Killer

The police chief's daughter whose body was found stuffed in a locker left a bar willingly with the man suspected of killing her and there was "evidence of drug use," homicide investigators said today.

Witnesses also told detectives that they saw Valerie Hamilton in apparent distress the night she died and had urged murder suspect Michael Neal Harvey to call a doctor.

"Witnesses indicate although alive, she appeared to need immediate medical attention. The suspect did not seek professional medical attention for Ms. Hamilton after being prompted by several independent witnesses to do so," a statement by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said.

Harvey, 34, was arrested Monday in a Niagara Falls, N.Y., house that was littered with needles and evidence of heroin, and police said Harvey was high on heroin at the time of his arrest. He appeared in court briefly today to waive extradition and was sent back to North Carolina to face charges.

Hamilton, the 23-year-old daughter of Concord Police Chief Merl Hamilton, was buried today.

The father's grief was compounded by details of her last hours after her friends left her in the Thomas Street Tavern where she had helped a girlfriend celebrate her 21st birthday Sept. 14. Her body was found on Sept. 19.

The statement released by police said Hamilton departed the bar with a man believed to Harvey. "It is believed that Ms. Hamilton left with the suspect voluntarily," police said.

"Homicide Detectives interviewed many witnesses that observed Ms. Hamilton in the presence of the suspect. Homicide Detectives found evidence of drug usage," it says.

The statement leaves much unexplained, however.

"The preliminary results do not indicate any sign of traditional physical trauma to Ms. Hamilton's body, i.e. gunshot wounds, stab wounds, strangulation, bludgeoning," it said. "Detectives are still awaiting results from the [medical examiner] regarding toxicology and the results of the sexual assault examination kit."

The police release also did not state whether the witnesses and evidence of drug use was at the bar or later at Harvey's apartment. It does not detail what drugs may have been used, and it does not indicate who the witnesses are.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Hamilton called a friend at 3 a.m. Wednesday asking if she wanted to come over to Hamilton's apartment complex to swim in a hot tub with her and a friend, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Hamilton's friend now assumes the other friend was Harvey.

The police release, however, said, "Detectives believe the suspect moved Ms. Hamilton in an effort to conceal her death and made great efforts to clean up any potential crime scenes before he disposed of her body."

Police report of Hamilton leaving with Harvey and being part of a drug scene conflicted with remarks her friends made to Monday, describing her someone who was not a party girl into drugs, who worked with children and was training for a triathlon.

On Monday night Police Chief Merl Hamilton sat doubled over in grief, sobbing by candlelight as he and hundreds of others gathered to remember his daughter.

"Time After Time," an ode to loving dedication, played in the background before the chief rose to speak about his daughter at the Concord, N.C., vigil.

"That was our song," he said through tears before addressing "Val" directly. "And I look to you in heaven. Time after time, baby."

Harvey wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs, had a brief five minute appearance in a New York court today where he said he would not fight extradition to North Carolina.

Four family members were with Harvey in court, where his mother broke into tears. Neither his family nor his attorney, Michael White, spoke to reporters as they left the courtroom.

Hours before Harvey's arrest, chief Hamilton called on his fellow law enforcement officers to find the culprit in a plea on "Good Morning America."

"I want to ask my law enforcement brothers and sisters in the country to help me with this," Hamilton said on "GMA."

"They took my daughter guys. Play it right, play it by the rules. You all get out there and find this guy for me. When it gets back my way, I'll pay you back."

The subsequent manhunt took a few hours to track down Harvey, who was "dumbfounded" he had been caught so quickly, Daniel Larish of the U.S. Marshals Service told ABC News.

Harvey has reportedly denied responsibility for Hamilton's death.

Now that Harvey is in custody, Chief Hamilton said he doesn't want law enforcement to stop their essential work.

"Go out there and catch the one that does it to someone else," he said. "To help prevent it. That's what I need."

Family, Friends Remember Valerie Hamilton

Hamilton's friends are struggling to cope with the details of her death.

Kathryn Foster, whose birthday was being celebrated at the bar the night Hamilton died, remembered Hamilton talking to a man at the bar when she left, but was unsure whether Harvey was that man, she told Monday.

Foster said she hadn't noticed anything unusual about Hamilton and the man to whom she speaking. She also said her friend was training for a triathlon, was not inebriated, "never did drugs" and was not a "party animal."

Hamilton was at the Thomas Street Tavern because she had made a huge effort to make Foster's birthday memorable.

"She came to meet up with me for my birthday and brought me a gift. She was selfless," Foster said. "She was making sure I had the best day ever.

"There were six or seven us at the bar, and we were having a great time and laughing," she said.

Foster said that the victim had given her running gear, including a sweatband and energy bars, because the two had been training together for the triathlon.

The two friends had a system where they would always send the other a text message at the end of the night to ensure that they'd each gotten home safely. But that night, Valerie Hamilton did not send a text.

"Of course, I regret not making sure she got home OK, but at the same time, what made this night different wasn't none of us calling her. It was obviously this guy," Foster said.

"I think about how I left her every second," Foster said. "It crosses my mind; what if, but I know I can't think that way."

Police Chief: Daughter's Murder Should Serve as a Reminder for Young Women

Foster said the group of young women left the bar around 1 a.m., but Hamilton stayed behind.

"She just wanted to finish her drink," said Foster, who recalled the bright, grass-green dress her friend had donned for the celebration. "She was completely coherent, she wasn't even at the bar for that long."

The victim had been at the bar for about an hour, Foster said, because Hamilton had worked until 10 p.m. before going home to finish editing a paper for school by phone with her father, whom she spoke to "several times a day."

Hamilton said he wanted his daughter's death to serve as a reminder to all young women to be aware of their surroundings and stay safe.

"I hope that the other young ladies out there, that they'll remember the lessons they were taught as youngsters about being safe," he said Monday. "It carries into when you're in the 20s, ladies.

"Make sure the men treat you with respect and be safe."

ABC News' Sarah Netter contributed to this report.