In Memory of Morgan Dana Harrington, and a Plea for Justice

Morgan Dana Harrington went missing from a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Her body was discovered on a remote farm outside Charlottesville around January 26, 2010, more than 100 days after she disappeared on October 17, 2009. The following is in memory of Morgan, and a plea that if anyone knows who was responsible for her death, to please do the right thing, and come forward, bring what you know to the authorities, and help Morgan’s family get some closure.
Rest in peace Morgan. 2-4-1
The following was posted on the blog that Morgan Harrington’s mother was running:
The world has lost its best hugger. The incomparable Morgan Dana Harrington was torn from us on October 17, 2009.
Morgan, age 20, was a shiny, loving, beautiful original. She was very much loved by her family, her friends, and her community, which has now expanded to include much of the world.  We cherish the time we had with Morgan and are grateful for the breadth and variety of experiences we were able to share in her tragically abbreviated life.
Morgan was born on July 24, 1989 in Charlottesville, Virginia and killed there in October 2009.  She was an avid music fan, a champion of children’s rights, and planned a career in education.
To recognize some of Morgan’s passions we ask that, in lieu of flowers, gifts to honor Morgan’s memory be made to the Morgan Dana Harrington Memorial Scholarship at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine or to OMNI – Orphan Medical Network International, an organization that provides medical care in Africa.  Scholarship donations may be mailed to: Virginia Tech, Attn: Gift Accounting, University Development (0336), Blacksburg, VA  24061, and OMNI donations to 6930 Empire Lane, Roanoke, VA 24018.
Our reconfigured family, Dan, Gil and Alex plan on honoring Morgan with a Mass on February 5, 2010 at 3:30 PM at St. Andrews Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia followed by a reception to celebrate Morgan’s life at the Hotel Roanoke.
We are grief stricken by her death but also lifted by the knowledge that Morgan Dana Harrington was precious to so many and will not be forgotten.  She mattered, to us all.
2 4 1

Writing with astonishing insight and restraint, Gil Harrington, Morgan’s mother, said that we in Charlottesville live inside a bubble. We are a self-satisfied lot. “I am concerned about the complacency in Charlottesville,” she wrote on January 23 on “I am feeling a tendency to downplay Morgan’s abduction, to protect the idyllic reputation of the city. I bought into that idyllic image until my daughter was stolen there.”
Most of this terrible puzzle remains to be solved, including the critical sequence of events that occurred outside the John Paul Jones Arena that night, and why a clearly disoriented Morgan was denied re-entry to the building—why she was shut out, despite her erratic conduct and widely reported attempts to regain entry to the facility. A call about Morgan to Carol Wood, assistant vice-president for public affairs at the University of Virginia, was unreturned. No representative of the management company that operates JPJ on behalf of UVA has made a public statement about the events of October 17, 2009.
For many, Morgan’s attempt to get back inside the building was a cry for help, a last chance to save her. So what happened, and should the Commonwealth of Virginia, which owns the arena, take a hard look at re-examining its now controversial no-re-entry policy?
“Morgan is the poster child for the need to re-evaluate that policy,” said Matthew B. Murray, one of Charlottesville’s most eminent attorneys. “The policy of non-re-admittance has to be examined.”
Whoever killed Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington and left her body on a remote farm knew the tricky “obstacles” to get to the location, Virginia police said today.
Morgan Harrington was last seen at a Metallica concert in Virginia with friends.
Virginia State Police Lt. Joe Rader asked at a press conference today for people who live in the area to alert investigators to whoever was familiar with the roads and terrain there.
Rader said investigators believe the person or persons responsibile for Harrington’s murder was familiar with the area on Anchorage Farm where the 20-year-old’s body was found.
“People in the Anchorage Farm area, you know what goes on there, you know the history,” said Rader. “You know who comes in and out of the vicinity and you might not realize it but you probably have some information for us that you don’t even think is important.”
“We encourage you, pick up the phone and call us,” said Rader, also offering a special phone line, 434-709-1685 , that has been set up for tips.
Anchorage Farm is in Albemarle County about 10 miles south of where Harrington was last seen at a Metallica concert. Her body was discovered by the owner of the farm on Oct. 17. Harrington’s death was ruled a homicide on Wednesday, but her cause of death has not yet been determined.
Rader went on to list several points of interest about the location and the significance of the location that he said he was offering in hopes of getting a response from the community.
Among the items in Rader’s list was information about the “obstacles” that a person unfamiliar with the farm would have faced trying to get to the stop where Harrington was found.
“The choice of that particular location is quite different than if the person responsible had chosen the public highway or the shoulder,” said Rader. “This particular location would have been a high risk location unless you’re familiar with the area.”

More than 100 days passed from the last time Morgan Harrington was seen alive, to when her skeletal remains were found.  While it may seem investigators don’t have much to work with, a forensic science expert weighs in on what could help lead to a suspect.

“From a little piece of bone, you can find a suspect.“, says Dr. Tod Burke.  Burke is a forensic science expert at Radford University.  He is not associated with the Harrington case.
“Anytime you have remains, that’s of forensic value.“, says Burke.  “Sure it would be ideal for an investigator to just approach the scene and have a fresh body.“
Burke says a suspect might assume a remote location, like where Morgan’s remains were found, would guarantee a body would never be found.  He says the location, however, could work to the suspect’s disadvantage.
“It’s not heavily traveled. So you don’t have a lot of people coming and going.“, says Burke.  “Whereas if a body were dumped in a suburban or city area where you have a lot of movement,  the chances of being seen are greater but the forensic value may be contaminated.“
The massive snow, that likely covered the remains and delayed searches for Morgan, could preserve a body.  Warmer temperatures could speed up decomposition.
“There was hot weather, there was warm weather, there was cold weather all could play a role in body decomposition.“, says Burke.
Burke says animals can contaminate a crime scene, but could also help in an investigation.  He says that’s because animals can carry pieces of evidence from remote locations, to places where someone will find them.
Burke says don’t discount the possibility of DNA evidence, especially on any clothing Morgan was still wearing when she was found. 
He’s confident whether it’s days from now, or years, we will find out what happened to Morgan.
“The forensic evidence is there.“ says Burke. “A suspect is there.“


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