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. redly says:

    never mind. I was confusing it with the pantops search.

    redly, am I missing the post this is connected to, or where you responded to something, or thinking out loud, lol? I checked the other bins.


  2. redly says:

    Sorry blink, I should have quoted as I usually do, but I was adding to my earlier post about the crozet searches being related to a witness sighting that later turned out to be someone else. It was the Pantops search I was thinking about, not crozet.

    I doubt she made it 10 miles to AF before he assaulted her. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened almost immediately — for example in the back of the whole foods parking lot (just a complete guess on my part).

    I agree the attack would be immediate. Their were 2 pantops searches. One was based on a sighting of a girl resembling Morgan and a Blue pick up was searched, and their was a LE only search on November 4, near State Farm Ins lot and the base of the mountain, allegedly based on a tip of a peculiar vehicle sighting in the lot the evening of October 17, 2009.


  3. George says:

    not trying to be contrary but the attack need not have been immediate. If Morgan accepted a ride from an authority figure she may not have realized that she was not being taken where she wanted to to go for sometime into the journey.

  4. George says:


    Thanks for your comment about Crozet. It is a little closer to Lannigan Field than AF and would be a reasonable destination to request a ride to, where Harrisonburg or Blacksburg would be too far. Morgan could pretty much walk to any location in Charlottesville of normal interests to college students from Lannigan Field if someplace in Charlottesville was her destination.

  5. Jamais says:

    Blink and all,
    I found an interesting story on Morgan’s case at ‘Women In Crime Ink’. Sorry, but I’m not savvy enough to get a link but the website is>

    Learned somethings I didn’t know, and am happy Morgan’s case is being covered, so I wanted to share. Please let this be solved>for Morgan; for her family; for potential victims and also for us who believe.

    Thanks Jamais- I am disappointed that Michelle often gets minor case details wrong, but I am happy she wrote on the case.

  6. George says:

    While in the JPJ Arena or outside of it, trying to get back in, or in the parking lots, Morgan would be under the jurisdiction of the UVa police. While crossing Copley Road she would be under the Charlottesville Police Department jurisdiction, and after reaching Lannigan Field she would be back under UVa jurisdiction. If she ever was on the bridge then she was back under The Charlottesville Police jurisdiction.

    Just thinking in general that if anything untoward or illegal was going on in the parking lots during large rock concerts it would pretty much be the UVa police that would have to get a handle on it. Or not?

  7. alexandra says:

    Looking for a female who lent Morgan her cell phone?
    I wonder why this keeps coming up, but nothing more. Who did Morgan call? They must know she called someone but not on her own phone. What could this be about?

  8. Amy says:

    Thank you Jamais:

    From that website:

    -seems police are looking for a particular vehicle that stopped on the bridge (not known before)
    -this was interesting also: because of the impossibility to prevent trespassers there were areas of AF assigned to different hunters so as to at least have some say as to who goes where. Amazing how people just walk over other peoples land huh? Anyways so those hunters were kinda unpaid security out of necessity (otherwise there was no controlling who just walked there)

    and also this to me is the route and origin of the killer and maybe the site of the assault, building site, I am thinking about an unfinished building project at the time from which in a straight line to the finding place its not hard to move a body:

    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

    I seen pictures illustrating this but am not good in explaining the distance etc but remember thinking this is the easiest route. No going over fences ravines etc


  9. Rose7 says:

    Crozet again. Anyone remember one of the first reports about Morgan’s car being left there? (per Dr. harrington?) Then, it was ‘cleared’ up as a mistake. How was it ‘cleared’ up, specificly??

    Why was it ever a question? Who corrected it?? (all conditions and timelines came from the ‘grop’ she was with, right?)

  10. redly says:

    Rose7 says:
    October 6, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Crozet again. Anyone remember one of the first reports about Morgan’s car being left there? (per Dr. harrington?) Then, it was ‘cleared’ up as a mistake. How was it ‘cleared’ up, specificly??

    Why was it ever a question? Who corrected it?? (all conditions and timelines came from the ‘grop’ she was with, right?)

    I believe Dr. Harrington thought she had left her car either in Blacksburg where VPI is located or in Harrisonburg where JMU is located, where they picked up two of the concert going group. He This was because Morgan had apparently told him someone else was driving and asked for gas money to reimburse the driver. It was cleared up when he learned her car was in the JPJ parking lot.

    He believed the car was at JMU. That was the plan as it was presented to him, he knew it was not in Blacksburg as she left in it to pick up Sarah and Dan. As for why the debacle within UVA PD not understanding this, I have no idea.

  11. pale rider says:

    mary says:
    September 30, 2011 at 11:22 am
    Thanks Mom3.0

    More random thoughts: They apparently knew it was Morgan’s shirt fairly quickly so why did the group of plainclothes detectives show up at the apartment complex the day after Morgan was found to search around the bushes?
    Not only that. What led them to search there before the shirt was discovered?

    Quote from mom3.0 above:
    LE Cappuzzo or Rader, say they searched there before…had not seen shirt then… “… found just exposed to the viewing” dont know how or when it got there…

  12. Rose7 says:

    Good catch, pale rider! ………..

  13. Rose7 says:

    BUT …. why is Blink and Company having to ‘catch’ these things???

  14. Amy says:

    wow Pale rider never thought about that:

    Not only that. What led them to search there before the shirt was discovered?

    Maybe one day we know..

    blink s comment about the LE dismissalw in abermarle: thats very disheartening both for the officers as well as for ‘public disclosure’. There should be room for police officers to make mistakes as long as its clear what it is they did wrong and how its being adressed and prevented from happening again (unless its VERY serious) and these things make one wonder.

    Now it just looks like more PR sigh i wont even bother to ask what its all about.

  15. pale rider says:

    Thanks, Rose7.
    And good question back at ya!

  16. says:

    Rose said: “Crozet again. Anyone remember one of the first reports about Morgan’s car being left there? (per Dr. harrington?) Then, it was ‘cleared’ up as a mistake. How was it ‘cleared’ up, specificly??

    Why was it ever a question? Who corrected it?? (all conditions and timelines came from the ‘grop’ she was with, right?)”
    Rose, You stated this perfectly. Yes, it was rumored early on that the group of 4 riding in Morgan’s car may have stopped in Crozet on the way. Yes, Crozet is between Harrisonburg and Charlottesville and many older students do live out that way. This is why there were questions about where they went just prior to JPJA/concert….like, “After picking up Dan and Sarah did they stop in Crozet?”, also why some people questioned early on, “Did they meet up with folks in Crozet and all ride together to JPJA?”
    So I agree with you, “why was it (The Crozet thing) ever a question?” Why would the word “Crozet” ever even have come up unless it was assumed they knew someone there or had reason to stop there? Funny thing that the back way to Anchorage Farm from Copeley Rd. would have been to go out 250 near Crozet, also near the house that burned down.

  17. alexandra says:

    241 Morgan!

    Justice for Morgan!

    I just want to believe VSP has it all under control and there will be an arrest and they know more than we do.

    There HAS to be an arrest.

  18. Blink says:
    Excellent point. I hope.everyone takes the time to map your post.

  19. crimewriter says: says:
    October 8, 2011 at 9:50 am

    RE: I thought I remembered reading that Morgan’s car was actually left at SS who lives in Crozet and it was never at the JPJ arena?

  20. alexandra says:

    What about Crozet?
    Do her “friends” know anything about Crozet?

    What about the house, Sutherland, did they ever close the fire investigation? Help us here, somebody.

  21. susanm says:

    amy, hey ,the biggest similarity ,to me ,was the wealth/fame of the neighborhood where both were found , and that both girls were taken in the middle of a crisis that occurred from an authority figure knowingly sending them into the dark alone without a ride,same with paula sladewski,had a bad night that got worse when they were rescued by a murderer,like alexandra is always saying, how could a person expierience so much misshap on one night and then end up murdered by a random cruising serial killer.imo ,even though these three have that in common ,id bet ,those circumstances do not a match a common serial, if fact i’d guess individually it would make these cases extremely rare,cassandra morton,or jogger, would match the more common scenario. Blink thanks for correcting my spacers on the links , i am slowly accepting the fact that reading glasses are soon to be. i think esoteric statistics(fbi) could develop a very clear idea of whether or not this is a cop ,a firefighter,a security individual or none of the above.

  22. Minnie Penney says:

    Yes, I also would like to hear more about the house fire house. I would think the FD would have an answer by now.

  23. Blink says:

    They ruled it accidental, I think, before it. Re-ignited actually.

  24. John says:

    On Jan 26, 2010, Jonathan Blake, “artist” wrote on topix, in response to house fire……(((((If any of you guys read this, I am incredibly sorry for your collective loss. Know that your friends love you and will do anything we can for you. )))) We know Jonathan was/is friends with the collective occupants of the house. He calls himself crazy, but he might be just kidding. He also shows himself with a scratch on his hand with a bit of blood on it, and says it sucks to have to hit someone. I wonder if Morgan knew this man, because there might be an “art” connection. I see some things similar in some of Morgans work.

  25. John says:

    “My dog died in that fire and I know everyone in that house well. I am sure the fire had nothing to do with the body being found, just a coincidence. Thanks to all those who are supporting those of us who sustained losses in the fire. For all those conspiracy theorists, put it to rest and find a better way to spend your time, no need to add insult to all of our injuries.

    P.S. The fire was deemed to be electrical and I was not even aware of the fire until 2 days after since I am in Peru with close friends”

    Bringing this statement, supposedly from the guy whose dog died in the fire, back into the conversation. This statement does not flow properly IMO. For example, why does he need to say in Peru with close friends? Why do we care who he is there with? Is it to make sure that he cannot be contacted/found by being in a hotel? If I were making this statement from Charlottesville, Va., and not from Peru, I might feel the need to embellish, and ad such words as “close” . Also, why did the fire have to be “deemed” electrical? How did he know this, when it seems all on here STILL do not know the cause of the fire? (the dog owner said he knew two days later. I guess the police called and told him in Peru. I guess the police had the phone number of his close friends in Peru, and wanted dog owner to know the cause of the fire, and also to know that they did not suspect him of anything. LE is nice like that.
    I would like dog owner to come on here and tell me why he did not seem to be sad about his dog getting burned, and why he called his dog Blanca. Was she called that after the duchess? Just curious. This guy is way too smooth IMO.

    He was not smoothe enough to say he was in Peru, and have his IP post as Charlottesville.


  26. John says:

    when I say the statement does not flow properly, IMO, he says the fire was electrical, then he was not aware, then says I AM, instead of I WAS.

  27. George says:

    If the householder was in Peru how does he possibly know whether or not the fire and the finding of Morgan were related? No curiosity on his part at all as to how they might be joined? He can order, from Peru, who does and does not come on the property and into the house?

  28. George says:

    Peru is the world’s largest producer of cocoa leaves. Bales of the leaves are increasingly being sent to Mexico where they are processed into paste before much of it gets shipped to the states.

    Just an observation.

  29. Amy says:

    I could never ‘ feel’ the fire being related unless there is some forensic connection (doghairs would seem most likely motivation to destroy evidence). If ‘ pitbull hairs were found on crime scene or even on tshirt etc (another fact we dont know)

    Other than that well maybe look into the electrical cause of fire (certain hairdryers are impossible to short circuit) etc etc the fire report could give answers. Also more people being involved as residents of the building, a conspiracy to hide evidence? Its a bit much.

    anyway as to location, my question would be why LE immediately assumed the killer took the most difficult route while its VERY well known by the local sheriff that there is another poacher route that is already frequently used.

    Even though signs on the gates say “Private” we’re learning that Waldemar Drive is a common spot for trespassers to go, and it’s a way to access the back of Anchorage Farm. Albemarle County law enforcement are aware of problems with trespassing in the rural parts of the county.

    “If they see a deer that they would like to take possession of, [spotlighters] shoot the deer, and go on somebody else’s property and kill the deer, put the deer in their vehicle, and drive away,” says Sgt. Chan Gianniny with the Albemarle County Sheriff’s Office.

    This fits in perfectely with the fact that the AF owners gave up in trying to secure their farm against trespassers and gave ‘ certain’ hunters certain areas of AF to police and use. This so as to have some control over who comes and goes.

  30. Minnie Penney says:

    Thanks for posting the new info on the house fire. No disrespect for anyone, but IMOO I could never see a connection between Morgan and the fire. I always thought it was old wiring and an old wooden structure. I feel certain that if it was arson the experts would have detected it.

  31. George says:

    The house on Sutherland Road that was destroyed by fire was built in 1992 – much too young to have old wiring problems.

    It should be noted the home was not rebuilt, and the person that inspected it is a personal friend of an investigator on this case. Not saying that signifies any wrongdoing, but it is a potential conflict, again.

  32. George says:

    Actually I do see a possible connection between the house fire and Morgan. It may have been known in the North Garden community for several days beforehand that Bass would have a large clean-up crew coming on the day Morgan was found.

  33. Dr. Pepper says:

    Amy and all- Blink please correct my memory if off-

    I have shared my opinion of how I immediately pictured the scenario going down upon reading blinks piece.

    The fire re- ignited hours after the last apparatus fell and TWELVE responders were called back. This is within minutes (before or after – B? Can’t recall) of Mr Bass calling police to report finding Morgan.

    The responders would probably pass eachother on way to scenes.

    So I tired I’ll finish post tomorrow

  34. CentVA Native Away says:

    I’m glad that you pointed that out, Blink regarding the fire inspection. After I read Minnie Penney’s post, I was thinking that the term “expert” can be quite subjective. I really try not to subscribe to conspiracy theories, but that fire does not sit well with me in relation to the discovery of Morgan’s body. I had envisioned an older clapboard farm house, but a house built in 1992, while not immune to electrical problems, is less likely to have them than a rental home that is much older.

    I also recall seeing on the 911 dispatch report that there were three calls regarding that fire. Blink, is one of those related to the fire “re-igniting”? I don’t understand why it would have been listed three times.

    Even when we continue to rehash certain items in this case, it never becomes any less intriguing… or frustrating that it hasn’t been solved (again, a loose term).

  35. George says:

    “It should be noted the home was not rebuilt, and the person that inspected it is a personal friend of an investigator on this case…


    Please tell me that the investigator is not the same one that wrote the fairy tale about the Eppard shooting? The report that likely kept several deputies out of prison.

    As far as our Peru traveler is concerned do we know where he was on the night of the Metallica concert? When did he go to Peru? When did he come back? Where was he when the t-shirt was found?

    Just curious.

  36. John says:

    @ George Actually I do see a possible connection between the house fire and Morgan. It may have been known in the North Garden community for several days beforehand that Bass would have a large clean-up crew coming on the day Morgan was found.

    I have not heard if the crew truck was searched as it left the property as the police were arriving on the day Morgan was found.
    Does anyone know? I certainly hope so.

  37. Dan Harrington says:

    New Blog from Gil Harrington
    October 11, 2011

    Morgan you were, and continue to be part of the fabric of our lives. Silly things keep cropping up, like butter. There was always Alex butter (real butter) and Morgan butter (margarine). Now Alex is our only living child and it grieves me a bit to know that this insider Mama knowledge of my family’s preference is now irrelevant. Morgan is dead; get over it Gil! I am seeking closure and instead, at time, feel foreclosure – that all our investments of love and nurturing have been forfeited, wasted.
    The anguish we feel from Morgan’s exclusion from our lives is cutting. The foreverness of death looms larger now as shock dissipates. We must change this pain into productivity; that is the way to wholeness and healing. I understand the huge opportunities that develop at times of loss. Like a field, you must be plowed; broken open and raw to receive new seeds that can flourish. We are there. We must surrender and let hope germinate. We must let go of attachments to certainty and allow the full spectrum of possibilities to show up. The harvest of that surrender is our very survival.
    There is important work yet to be done as a result of Morgan’s death; both to honor Morgan and to Save The Next Girl: there is a school in Zambia to finish, a culture of complacency to change, and a scholarship to fund in Roanoke, and legislation to support that aids law enforcement and protects young women.
    I am at best a reluctant activist. I would rather be on my third cup of tea, reading with a dog in my lap, not working, fighting for justice. But this is what I have been given to do and like every task I put my mind to; I will work hard and do my very best.
    Morgan, the world was brightened by your time here and will be blessed by your departure as well. I am convinced that divine order exists. Perhaps we will have an arrest in you case only after we have wrung every possible bit of goodness from this terrible wrong. We are trying baby.

    I would just like to say that as inspiring and moving as Gil’s words are, and continue to be, Dan is just as much the activist for Morgan even though he is less the spokesperson in terms of blogging or writing.

    They are both the epitome of grace and reluctant advocacy for our dear Morgan.

    New piece tomorrow, and radio interview tomorrow evening in her case.

  38. mary says:

    Have you put together a profile based on your research? I would be extremely interested in reading it., Amy, and all,
    That map made me think about geographical profiling. I know several of you are proficient in this sort of thing. I’d like to see some comments on this. Look at the map posted the link to and triangulate, then triangulate the Fairfax/Charlottesville coordinates. What are the simularities? Plus I always wanted what was his name T-Bone? to do a really detailed map of where the shirt was found in relation to JPJA. I think the question pale rider posed is a good one: did the police have a specific reason to specifically search 14th and Grady before the shirt was found? Or was it just in the course of a cursory search that they rode through that area? I just don’t know what to think about the Sutherland fire. I’ve seen some maps that make it look a long distance away from where Morgan was found. For a long time I thought it was right around the corner. It is one of those things that keeps popping back up though like Crozet.

    The shirt has always been a conundrum. I know many believe it was placed to divert searches from the North Garden side of Albemarle but it dawned on me that if that’s the case, then that means the person who placed the shirt is 1)literate enough to follow news reports, 2)familiar enough with 14th and Grady to know the cultural, social and geographical differences between it and Anchorage Farm. I think its important to note here that the Fairfax perp ran away in the direction of the Oxford Row Townhouses, not too shabby an area right?

    Could someone local (or someone who can read a map better than me)please tell me if I have this right: If you’re on the bridge on Copeley, a few feet down the road to your left is the Emmett/Ivy parking garage and a few feet down the road to your right is an apartment complex. And both of these are before you come to the actual corner of Emmett and Ivy?

  39. CentVA Away says:

    Looking forward to the new piece, Blink. I know that l speak for many on here in recognizing you for your tireless efforts as an advocate yourself. Thank you.

  40. Dan Harrington says:

    The 2nd anniversary of Morgan Harrington’s abduction and murder is 10/17/2011. Dan and Gil Harrington will mark that day with a short
    press conference at the bridge on Copeley Road in Charlottesville, Virginia, at 10:00 a.m., Monday, 10/17/2011. Virginia State Police will present a statement from law enforcement, followed by remarks from the Harringtons. Gil will recognize law enforcement for their ongoing efforts on Morgan’s unsolved homicide as well as thank some of the wide group of individuals who continue to support us. Dan will discuss personal safety issues and present the Help Save the Next Girl on-line initiative. Thank you for your attention. We hope many of you are able to attend this event, 10/17/2011 at 10:00 a.m.

    2 4 1
    The Harringtons

  41. redly says:

    I will not be able to attend as I am halfway across the country but will be there in spirit.

  42. George says:


    If you are on the end of the bridge nearest the intersection it is about 100 feet to the intersection of Copely and Ivy (which is route 250). If you turn left on Ivy it is 980 feet to the entrance to the parking garage. Ivy slopes downward all the way from the Copely intersection to the garage entrance and on to the intersection with Emmet (which is Route 29). The garage itself is set back about 300 feet from Ivy as well, so basically the parking garage is pretty far from the Copely bridge.

    As far as the other direction (right turn at the intersection) it is mostly strip development as well. If a person would walk directly across Ivy from the intersection and continue on the area becomes residential with some nice homes for several blocks before the main buildings of UVa begin.

    I don’t recall seeing any large apartment buildings in the area. The housing here is much nicer than the area where the t-shirt was found. The commercial strip on either side of Ivy is the only real negative to the area.

  43. Blink says:

    FYI Intro to tonights show:

    Will be on new thread, introducing new piece, publishes tomorrow

  44. mary says:

    George I’m the one who asked about the apartment complex and parking garage and thank you for your answer!

  45. alexandra says:

    Dear Dan and Gil Harrington,

    We’re still here. We won’t go away until there is justice for Morgan.
    God Bless you both and Alex too. Stay strong. Morgan mattered. <3

  46. Hummingbird says:

    I also will not be able to attend as I live clear across the other side of the country, but will be there in spirit.
    Thank Dan and Gil for everything you do you are a credit to Morgan and a shining example to us all.
    That goes for you as well Blink. I look forward to your new piece.
    Godspeed Morgan you have not been and never will be forgotten.

  47. John says:

    Where is everyone? I am left behind looking for the new piece.

    Nope, posting late today.

  48. Dr. Pepper says:

    Inappropriate and offensive to me, how is this an issue to direct at me?

    There are 500 articles in this site, I cover what I can to the best of my ability and if you took the time to research, you would see that I do NOT fall under that generalization.

    Hoping you were you choosing to vent and just worded it poorly.

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