Harringtons launch website
Parents of killed Tech student start new prevention campaign
The parents of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Dana Harrington launched a campaign Monday called "Help Save the Next Girl," which aims to facilitate the search for Harrington's killer, as well as to educate about and prevent the abduction of young women.
The Harringtons began the campaign in anticipation of the two-year anniversary of their daughter's abduction.
Harrington was abducted during a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena in October 2009 and later killed. DNA which was found to be related to the Harrington case was linked earlier this year to a 2005 rape and attempted murder in Fairfax. Harrington's killer is still at large.
The campaign's website features links to the family blog, the Virginia State Police Tip Line and the National Centers for Missing Children and Adults. Virginia State Police Lt. Joe Rader said the criminal investigation is separate from the campaign, which aims to raise awareness.
"It goes farther than the investigation," he said. "[The Harringtons] are trying to reach out as parents and make sure [this type of attack] doesn't happen to other girls."
The campaign was developed with the help of SAKinterMedia and B2C Enterprises, separate media companies managed by Stephanie Koehler and Bruce Bryan, respectively. Koehler and Bryan are a married couple and friends of the Harringtons. The companies designed advertisements for the cause in addition to spreading awareness via Facebook and Twitter.
As a resource for parents of abducted children, the campaign is working to make an outline online of the steps and procedures to be taken in the wake of an abduction.
"In the middle of this emotionally draining experience, making decisions is very difficult," Koehler said. "We want [the outline] to be able to help parents organize their thoughts. The Harringtons understand they can't bring their daughter back, but what keeps them awake at night is [the thought] that [Harrington's killer] could do this to someone else."
The ads in the campaign include messages such as "20 Years Old / 5'5" tall / 6 Feet Under" and "Spit out Morgan Harrington's Killer." Gil Harrington, the victim's mother, said the harsh approach matches the harsh reality of her daughter's death.
"I will not let [Morgan's] murder fade to beige and be swept aside - as suits so many," Gil Harrington said on the family blog.
In a news release, Gil Harrington said the images will be shown on media websites in the Charlottesville-Richmond-D.C. area. The campaign is also working on a television ad for the cause.
Help Save the Next Girl was conceptualized when Harrington received her posthumous degree from Virginia Tech last spring, Koehler said. She recalled how saddened Harrington's father was that the only anniversary the family had to remember their daughter was that of her death.
"The question became [how to] give purpose to [this] hideous tragedy," Koehler said. "Out of that conversation came Help Save the Next Girl."
Bryan and Koehler spent the time between May and now developing the campaign.
"We really wanted to kick it off before the two-year mark [to] keep it relevant," Koehler said, explaining that perpetrators who have committed crimes frequently pay attention to anniversary dates.\n"We want to keep people's eyes open," she said. "Just in case."
Family and police will hold a press conference Oct. 17 at 10 a.m. on Copeley Bridge, and Koehler encouraged students to attend. "Morgan was a college student just like you all are," she said.