Wednesday, October 5, 2011

COLD CASE: Morgan Harrington Unsolved Murder Approachng Two Year Anniversary

by Michelle Sigona

Morgan Harrington was last seen at a concert outside the John Paul Jones arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was October 17, 2009. Police say Morgan separated from friends around 8:30 p.m. when she walked out of the front entrance of a Metallic concert. Morgan never returned, and it was the last time she was seen alive. Investigators say Morgan called her friends inside and told them she was finding a ride home. State police officials report Morgan was last seen by the ticket office on the University Hall side of the building and witnesses report seeing her hitchhiking close to the arena exit road. An intense search of the area yielded no new clues until three months later. 

In January 2010, Morgan’s body was found on a farm in Albemarle County, Virginia. Investigators said her decomposed body could have been on the land as many as 100 days. One year ago this month, investigators released shocking information. They said the man who may have killed Morgan could be the same suspect that committed a sexual assault against another female in 2005. Virginia State Police officials confirm there is a forensic link between the 2005 assault and the murder. 

Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said the Virginia Department of Forensic Science processes and analyzes all of the evidence and lab work for every department and they randomly came up with a hit in their internal database. When the connection was made, technicians notified Virginia State Police of the link. Investigators from the state police contacted the Fairfax City Police in Virginia to compare notes. Geller said, “It’s one of those things, you never know what the next phone call is going to bring.” She added, “We know he (the man in the sketch) had contact with her (Morgan) the night of her disappearance, but we don’t know if he is responsible for her death. We are looking to identify and question him, and put the next pieces of the puzzle together.” Within 24 hours of releasing the sketch, the state police had 50 leads, but since then, the case has gone cold.

September 2005 Incident

Police say a female was walking along Rock Garden Drive in Fairfax City from the Giant when she was attacked from behind. Authorities say she was dragged to a park and sexually assaulted next to a pool. Sgt. Pam Nevlud with the Fairfax City Police department said, “We’ve gotten quite a bit of calls. That is very inspiring and we are hoping this leads to something.” As far as someone recognizing the sketch, Nevlud said, “People have little things that happen to them that they think are odd and that they don’t report to the police.” There is a chance that there could be more victims who haven’t come forward, or others who have crossed his path, but haven’t called.

CLUE: Authorities also say the necklace Morgan was wearing the night of the concert has not been found. 

Background of Morgan's Disappearance

According to a Virginia State Police press release: “During the course of the investigation, police have been able to establish a timeline of Miss Harrington’s movements once she ended up outside of the arena at approximately 8:30 p.m. After talking to her friends on her cell phone, she then walked through the parking lot of University Hall and was also seen in the Lannigan Field athlete parking lot, which is also used for RV parking. At around 9:30 p.m., she was seen walking on the Copeley Road bridge near Ivy Road.”

According to Virginia State police, based off independent witness accounts, investigators believe on October 17, 2009 (the night Morgan Harrington went missing) that she was hitchhiking along Copeley Road Bridge. Investigators are now searching for a vehicle they believe stopped in the middle of the bridge and possibly picked up Morgan. Also, investigators need the public’s help in finding a young woman the night of the Metallica concert that may have loaned her cell phone to Morgan.

The Farm

Nancy Bass, owner of the Anchorage farm where Morgan was found for more than 30 years, said the area where body was discovered is not accessible by vehicle. Nancy and her husband David said they have an SUV and there’s no way they could get down there. If it wasn’t for David on the tractor checking fences, Morgan may have never been discovered. David spoke out and said as soon as he saw the remains he instantly thought of Morgan. Nancy said when they first moved on the farm they did not allow hunting, but because of the trespassing, they decided to allow hunters assigned to different areas hoping they would keep an eye on things. 

Nancy says the main gate on the property is always open, it is never locked, but the pasture where Morgan was found is closer to a subdivision, only about 30 feet away. Morgan and the person who killed her may have had access to the location through the housing development, which isn’t too far of a walk. The Bass family owns more than 700 acres total, and the farm is only a few miles away from interstate 64. Police say the hayfield was cut in August, and Morgan’s body could have been there any time after mid-October when she went missing.

CLUE: The red digital camera Morgan was carrying the night she went missing still hasn’t been found. It is a Sony or Kodak. The suspect is described as a black male, between 25 and 35 and around 6 feet tall. In the 2005 attack, he was wearing a black pullover sweater with a zipper and light-colored pants. 

On the FindMorgan website, her family posted this: “We continue to work diligently with Law Enforcement to find justice for Morgan Dana Harrington and apprehend her killer(s). This is a difficult task during our worst nightmare with our limited energy and abilities. We will be successful though because of the strength we derive from the outpouring of love we have received from across the nation and beyond. Your support carries us as we continue to fight for Morgan and other precious children. We are so grateful to each of you." 

Virginia State Police have a tip line, please call them with any information: (434) 352-3467 or send them an e-mail:

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