TV program spotlights Harrington case

Former Virginia Tech student’s mother campaigns to elucidate facts about daughter’s death; ‘America’s Most Wanted’ features murder


The mother of former Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington is upping the ante on her campaign to obtain justice for her daughter who was found dead in a field in Albemarle County after attending a concert at John Paul Jones Arena. Gil Harrington advocated to feature the story of the murder on Friday’s episode of “America’s Most Wanted,” in hopes that increased publicity about the story will better garner justice and raise awareness about Morgan Harrington’s death.

Morgan Harrington went missing after a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena in October 2009, but her remains were not found until January 2010. The case has remained unsolved, and the perpetrator has yet to be identified.

Featuring cases on shows such as “America’s Most Wanted” is often helpful, Charlottesville Police Lieut. Ronnie Roberts said. “The show gets the word out to not just one segment, but across the entire country,” Roberts said.

The documentary-style show profiles unsolved crimes, and tips received from viewers have led to 1,172 captures of suspects and the return of more than 50 missing children.

“I hope someone out there can help Gil and Dan [Harrington] solve this case,” host John Walsh said during the show.

Walsh said he felt a personal connection with victims of unsolved cases, as his son was kidnapped and murdered more than 30 years ago, but the case was not closed until 2008. The Harrington feature, which lasted about eight minutes at the tail end of the hour-long episode opened with the narrator exclaiming, “Gil Harrington is an inspiration,” and went on to describe her work running a humanitarian program in Africa before Morgan was even mentioned, an angle of which Gil did not particularly approve.

“Dan and I have been very careful to make sure that this story is Morgan’s,” she said. “When you engage in any of these interviews it’s all on edit. They were with us for a good eight hours. Anything you do you put it out there and they weave it into the story.”

The feature described the facts of the case later in the segment: Morgan was last seen hitch-hiking on a bridge after leaving the concert, her remains were found months later on Anchorage Farm in Albemarle County, and DNA on the body matched that of an unknown male involved in an unsolved Fairfax County sexual assault case.

The show highlighted the likely whereabouts of the man and displayed a composite picture of him to encourage response from the viewers.

“It’s like sending messages in a bottle and hoping we’ll find the shore,” Gil Harrington said. “You don’t know what media approach will penetrate or will call forth memories. You have to work forward on all fronts.”

The show also displayed some of the positive outcomes that have occurred in the aftermath of Morgan Harrington’s death.

Gil Harrington recently set up an educational center in Zambia in Morgan’s name, as Morgan had aspirations of becoming an elementary school teacher.

“The world is a less beautiful place now that [Morgan] is not here,” Gil Harrington said. “She was going to bring much to the world. Her potential was taken, so some of the things she wanted to accomplish we will do in her name.”

Those with information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of Morgan’s killer will receive a $150,000 reward. Metallica has offered to pay $50,000, and the rest will be funded by the Harringtons.

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