Inspiring Vigilance: The Murder Of Morgan Harrington One Year Later

Charlottesville, VA– Sunday October 17 marks the one-year anniversary of the worst day of Dan and Gil Harrington’s lives. Although they were not yet aware of the horror that had befallen their Roanoke, VA family, the next morning their daughter’s purse was found on the grounds of the University of Virginia Lanigan Field. Morgan Dana Harrington had vanished.


While attending a Metallica concert with friends Sarah Snead, Amelia Melvin and Dan Cassagne with tickets purchased 6 months earlier by Morgan’s Dad, Morgan, for reasons unknown, was outside John Paul Jones arena at approximately 8:45PM.

Morgan attempted to re-enter the arena but could not locate her ticket and was denied access to return to the venue.  Shortly thereafter, Sarah called Morgan at 8:48PM looking for her and was told she could not get back in and would be attempting to locate a ride, according to Snead. 

Various witness accounts and in some cases corroborating statements from Virginia State Police (VSP), place Morgan in different areas of the adjacent parking lots of JPJ over the following 45 minutes, moving toward the far perimeter of UVA property.

 According to the VSP, there is a witness statement that a person matching Morgan’s description was seen hitchhiking alone on the Copeley bridge at approximately 9:30PM.

After several private law enforcement searches and two volunteer based efforts organized by the Harrington’s failed to locate her, Morgan Harrington’s remains were discovered by a prominent Charlottesville land owner on his remote 700 acre farm in Albemarle County,  8 miles South of JPJ arena, on January 26th, 2010.  Morgan’s death has been classified as a homicide, however her cause of death has not been released.

Until July, the case seemed to be at a virtual standstill from an investigative perspective, in fact the only arrest to date is that of a man who provided a false lead to VSP, and was prosecuted for it.

On July 1st, as a direct result of an article linking Morgan’s case to an unsolved sexual assault case in 2005 in Fairfax, VA published by, a sketch of a man forensically linked to both the Fairfax case and that of Morgan Harrington was released by the Virginia State Police, albeit grudgingly, at first.

Behind the scenes, Dan and Gil Harrington, who were made aware of the connection a few weeks earlier, were adamant the sketch was critical to developing leads and warning others and demanded the sketch be posted on the VSP website; it was uploaded later that afternoon at Dr. Harrington’s request.

Virginia State Police have not commented publicly on the case in several months, but in a private correspondence with a concerned reader, Lt. Joe Rader, leading the investigation for VSP,  said not only is the case not cold, but he has recently assigned additional manpower to it.

Dan and Gil Harrington, Morgan’s bereaved parents, along with Morgan’s beloved brother Alex, have spent the last year keeping Morgan’s case alive through the development of their own family blog, TV and radio appearances, and most recently, a meeting regarding safety concerns with new University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan.  This Sunday, a memorial plaque to promote safety and honor Morgan Harrington is being presented to the Harrington’s on the Copely bridge.


Note From the Editor

“How would you describe the Harrington’s?”  I am asked this question frequently.

I always respond the same way.  “I would not”. 

The grace and poise these parents have shown in the face of the worst conceivable tragedy to befall a parent is not something I could wordsmith or articulate. 

If the question comes from someone I feel may help their cause, I offer to make the introduction, but I would never presume to speak for them.

The Harrington’s have created a legacy in memory of Morgan that only parents of a 20-year-old blossoming artist, music loving, budding educator could.


Morgan Harrington Photo chosen by and courtesy of The Harrington Family Library

Elizabeth Morten, Madeline Tanner and Jason Mateos, contributing editors to

Madeline Tanner, copy editor

Images By Klaasend


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  1. Dr. Pepper says:

    Thanks for clarifying, I understand and you are correct, I agree.

  2. Dr. Pepper says:

    Dan, Gil and Alex-

    I’m still here. Praying for you. I will never stop supporting you and praying which catch who did this.


  3. Olivia says:

    Hi All,

    I am in waiting mode regarding this case. I am so busy at work. But my heart is here. Thanks Blink. Thanks to others who keep writing and pondering this. My thoughts and hopes are still with you, Harringtons, always. Don’t give up! If you continue to put energy into this case, it will crack. The killer(s) want it to “disappear,” but it won’t. They messed with the wrong family.

    By the way, I agree with the person above (early October) who said that she thought it was odd way back at the beginning that the police made a big deal about the road and entry point (the AF driveway) that the killer likely took, when most people living out there (N. Garden) knew that there were other, much more accessible pathways into the property. Why the obvious contradiction between: a) the driveway into the property from the front, and b) the likely familiarity the killer had with AF and Red Hill/North Garden? I don’t get it.

  4. Just Asking says:

    Morgan’s killer will be caught, sadly, its going to come at the cost of someone else life or rape, when he commits his next haunts crime, and if he’s caught, they WILL take his DNA, it will be at this point, he will be connected back to Morgan. Would like to know if he dose get caught, but is in another state, dose LE have the communication between states to catch him????

  5. Minnie Penney says:

    OT: Movie news a new film is opening this week, Texas Killing Fields. Blink likely knows this story. Tim Miller’s daughter, Laura, was one of the victims buried there. Several years back I subscribed to Texas Monthly magazine (I owned a Quarter Horse sired by Cardinal Cutter a son of Cutter Bill) and the mag had several write ups on Cutter Bill and in one mag was a long article on the murders of young girls. Not sure I want to see it, but I thought I would mention it. If interested in learning more about the film check out the site (Internet Movie Data Base) – you can read reviews, watch trailers and all sorts of goodies for film fans.

    I am very familiar Minnie, just a word of caution, this film is inspired by the Calder Field Killings, but it is very loose factually. That said, I am a big fan of both of these actors.

  6. Minnie Penney says:

    Thanks Blink – I knew you’d know about the case. The way the killer “posed” them with their arms crossed over their bodies…spooky. I bet the film will not stack up to the writing in TM. I’m not going to rush out to see it. So often the film does not live up to the written story.

  7. Mom3.0 says:

    I think it is important how she picked out her purse and how many she disregarded- it shows state of mind- etc- and just as its important to talk about the possible material as it relates to gaining prints or whether it was waterproof nylon or treated leather it is also important to know where the purse/contents was found along with/phone/shirt- it is important to know the condition of each- when recovered

    and I would hope LE does know- because it all is a small detail that may lead them to figure out what happened and when- The jury is sure gonna want to know-

    I was simply giving my viewpoint frankly it doesnt matter if we gained the insights as Rue Paul or as parents or grandparents or as fashionistas or joe smoes

    IRT the purse straps possible info/theory–I dont think it was broken as police have said there were no signs of a struggle- a broken purse strap would be a sign- more so than a purse lying on the ground

    The timeline- There is NO TIMELINE- police have admitted this point

    They themselves realize that each witness each SUBJECTIVE time does not fit-

    Even after thousands of hours of witness interviews police still are relying on the same “tentative” timeline they have always had-

    Remember most of the witnesses had no watches-

    The only SET times are the 8:48 SS call
    The 9:00- 9:05 Kickee BK sightings
    The 9:23 F/D door stamp
    the 9:36 “objective” 7-11 receipt from father
    BBP gone at or by 9:20

    The 9:30 cell dead time (more on this later)

    add to that the time estimates-
    BK second sighting of same group of 5 around vehicle- 9:15

    Curtsy duo AFTER BBP left – those who interacted ( the students left)

    Cont Part 2

  8. Mom3.0 says:

    Blink – previous post should be on newest piece can you delete it please and Ill move it over? Thanks

  9. [...] According to many news outlets, Jesse Matthews Jr. will been charged with first degree murder in the death of 18 year old University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. Matthews was arrested in September 2014 and has already been charged with abduction with the intent to defile in the case of Hannah Graham. The 18 year old UVA coed went missing on 9/13/14 in in Charlottesville, Virginia. Matthew is also charged in connection to a rape case in Fairfax  and police have forensic evidence that links Matthews to the 2009 disappearance and death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. [...]

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