Murder of Morgan Dana Harrington
|Born||Morgan Dana Harrington
July 24, 1989
Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||October 17, 2009
Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
|Cause of death||Homicide|
|Body discovered||January 26, 2010|
|Known for||Missing person and murder victim|
Morgan Dana Harrington of Roanoke, Virginia (July 24, 1989 - October 17, 2009) was a 20-year-old American Virginia Tech student who disappeared from the John Paul Jones Arena on October 17, 2009 while attending a Metallica concert at the University of Virginia (UVA). Her disappearance initiated one of the largest searches in Charlottesville, Virginia's history. Harrington's remains were discovered three months later in rural farmland. A forensic connection has been made to the principal suspect in the murder of Hannah Graham, a University of Virginia student who is believed to have been abducted on September 13, 2014.
On October 17, 2009, Harrington and three friends drove to the John Paul Jones Arena for the concert. During the opening act's performance, Harrington told friends that she was going to the restroom. When she did not return, they called her cell phone at 8:48pm and she told them that she was locked out of the arena because of its "no re-entry" policy. She added that she would find a way home and they should not worry. According to witness reports, she was last seen at around 9:30pm hitch-hiking on a nearby bridge. There are also two witnesses who claim to have seen her with three men after she had left the arena.
The following day, her purse with her identification and cell phone (with batteries removed) was discovered in one of the arena's overflow parking areas, the RV lot at UVA's Lannigan Athletic Field.
Her remains were discovered on January 26, 2010, about ten miles (16 km) from the arena in a remote area of a 742-acre (3.00 km2) farm and at least one and a half miles from road access. Although investigators have not released information about her death, her parents confirmed that the death had been very violent and bones were broken.
In April 2010, law enforcement confirmed that a Pantera T-shirt that was found in November 2009 outside of an apartment building about a mile and a half from the arena, was indeed the shirt she had been wearing on that evening according to forensic tests. Police also determined a forensic link between the murder and an abduction and sexual assault in Fairfax, Virginia, in September 2005. They also believe that the killer may be familiar with the area where Harrington's body was found.
Harrington's mother Gil confirmed on May 17, 2010, that her daughter had been raped: "It has been seven months since Morgan was abducted, raped, and murdered. Still no resolution! We find some comfort in having recovered her body; knowing it is better than not knowing and trying to 'fill in the blanks'."
The killing provoked fears, expressed by her parents in many meetings with media including national television broadcasts, that a serial killer might be living in Virginia. DNA was later tied to a September 2005 attempted abduction in Fairfax City.
In September 2014, Harrington's case was linked to the murder of Hannah Graham in Charlottesville, Virginia, through "forensic evidence" pertaining to Jesse Matthew, the main suspect in the latter case. On October 20, 2014, Matthew was indicted in the 2005 Fairfax abduction.
Over a decade earlier, Matthew was twice accused of sexual assault at two separate Virginia colleges he attended as a student. He left each school immediately after each allegation. The reported assaults occurred within an 11-month period of each other, as Matthew moved from the evangelical Christian Liberty University in Lynchburg to the Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Police investigated each report, but in neither incident was a criminal case brought against him.
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- Graff, Henry (20 October 2014). "Jesse Matthew Indicted for 2005 Sexual Assault in Fairfax County". WVIR. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
- Mary Pat Flaherty; T. Rees Shapiro (October 1, 2014). "U-Va. suspect Jesse L. Matthew Jr. twice accused of college sex assaults". Washington Post.