Morgan Harrington Case One Year Later

Police sketch

Police sketch

One year ago Sunday, investigators say Morgan vanished on while attending a concert outside the John Paul Jones arena in Virginia. She was separated from friends around 8:30 p.m. when she walked out of the front entrance. Authorities say Morgan called her friends inside and told them she was finding a ride home, and that they shouldn’t wait for her. State police officials report Morgan was last seen by the ticket office on the University Hall side of the building. Morgan’s body was found on a farm in Albemarle County a little over three months after she vanished from the Metallica concert. Investigators told me her body could have been on the farm as many as 100 days.

Earlier this month, investigators released shocking information. They say the man who may have killed Morgan could be the same suspect that committed a sexual assault against a female in 2005. Virginia State Police officials confirm there is a forensic link between the 2005 assault and the murder. It’s quite interesting how the connection was made: police spokesperson Corinne Geller told me that the Virginia Department of Forensic Science processes and analyzes all of the evidence and lab work for every department. A hit came up in their internal database and they notified the Virginia State Police of the link in the cases. The authorities from the state police contacted the Fairfax City Police in Virginia and took a couple of days to compare notes. It appeared the cases stacked up, and this latest development was released to the public a few months ago.

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 they 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. Right now their time is spent eliminating duplicates between the departments and prioritizing the tips.

In the 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. I spoke with Sgt. Pam Nevlud with the Fairfax City Police department and she 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’s a chance that there could be more victims who haven’t come forward, or others who have crossed his path, but haven’t called.

Last week, Alvin T. Daniels, 51, from Alexandria, Virginia was convicted of obstruction of justice in this case. Investigators say he called in a false tip to Virginia State Police and accused another man of kidnapping Morgan. Authorities checked out the lead, and determined the man accused of the kidnapping was not involved.

BACKGROUND OF MORGAN’S DISAPPEARNCE: 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.

ABOUT THE FARM: I spoke with Nancy Bass, owner of the Anchorage farm for more than 30 years, and she says the area where Morgan’s body was found is not accessible by vehicle. Nancy and her husband David have an SUV, and there’s no way they could get down there. If it wasn’t for David on the tractor yesterday checking fences, Morgan may have never been found. David spoke out and said as soon as he saw the remains he instantly thought of Morgan. I asked Nancy about the hunters on her property, and she says 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 that 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. However Morgan got to that location may have been 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. Although investigators say they have not searched this area because they didn’t have a need to, I spoke with the CUE center for Missing Persons and they had a search scheduled with Morgan’s family and 1,600 volunteers at the end of this month.

The State Police told me 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 was 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. 2 4 1 The Harrington’s”

Virginia State Police have a tip line, please call them with any information: (434) 352-3467 or send them an e-mail: bci-appomattox@vsp.virginia.gov or for to give information on the sexual assault, please contact Jefferson Crimestoppers: (434) 977-4000.

Remembering Morgan (family photo)

Remembering Morgan (family photo)

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