A look back at the Morgan Harrington case

Forensic evidence in Graham investigation may shed light on Tech student case


Virginia State Police released a statement Monday confirming a forensic link between second-year College student Hannah Graham’s recent disappearance and Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington’s death in 2009. Police say forensic evidence taken from suspect Jesse Matthew in the Graham case match evidence found in connection to the Harrington case.

“For the past five years, the Virginia State Police has been aggressively pursuing the investigation into the disappearance and death of 20-year-old Morgan D. Harrington of Roanoke, Va.,” the statement read. “Last week, the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville, Va., provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue.”

Police said though this new information is helpful, there still is much to be done in resolving the Harrington case.

On Sunday, October 17, 2009, Harrington disappeared after attending a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena. Harrington had driven to Charlottesville for the event with a friend from James Madison University.

Her friends reportedly were separated from her at 8:45 p.m. on the night of the concert. Independent witness accounts indicate that Harrington was last seen at 9:30 p.m. on the Copeley Road Bridge near Ivy Road hitchhiking for a ride. Her father reported her missing at 12:30 p.m. the next day.

At the time of her disappearance, Dan Harrington, pleaded with the public for help.

"If Morgan's out there and hears us, please come home," he said in Oct. 2009. "And if someone has Morgan, please let her go."

Harrington’s remains were discovered in Jan. 2010 on a local farm, about 10 miles from Grounds, by David Bass, owner of Anchorage Farms in Albemarle County, while doing rounds on his property.

"I was in a remote place on the farm that I rarely need to go to but I was checking fence lines because of the bad storm Sunday night," Bass said in Jan. 2010.

Bass contacted police immediately after the discovery. Both Albemarle County and Virginia State Police launched a thorough investigation of his property where the remains were found.

Gil Harrington, Morgan's mother, said the unresolved case has made her family frantic.

“It has been seven months since Morgan was abducted, raped, and murdered,” she wrote in a blogpost in May 2010. “Still no resolution! We find some comfort in having recovered her body; knowing is better than not knowing and trying to ‘fill in the blanks.’”

Now, evidence from the Graham investigation may provide a resolution.

The forensic evidence may also provide a break in a 2005 sexual assault committed in Fairfax City. In June 2012, the FBI released a statement saying that DNA from the 2005 attacker matched that found in the Harrington investigation.

“Today, federal, state, and local law enforcement launched a multimedia campaign that includes two enhanced composite sketches of a suspect in the 2009 murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington," the FBI said at the time. "The unknown murder suspect is also connected by DNA to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax City, Virginia.”

Despite the benefit this information might lend to the 2005 and 2009 investigations, Virginia State Police said the community must continue to focus on finding Graham.

“[Right] now, the public’s focus needs to remain on helping Charlottesville Police locate and bring Hannah Graham home,” they said in the press release Monday.

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