On October 17, Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington went missing after leaving a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena (JPJ). What follows is an overview of official police statements and events reported on by C-VILLE staff.
Morgan Dana Harrington has been missing since Saturday, October 17. Within a week of her disappearance, posters like this went up around the state.
Missing person report filed
On October 18, Dan Harrington files a missing person report with local authorities. His daughter, Morgan, had traveled to Charlottesville with friends from James Madison University to see a Metallica concert at JPJ. The 20-year-old Roanoke native went missing after becoming separated from friends. Police report shortly thereafter that she was last seen wearing a black t-shirt with “Pantera” written on the front, a black miniskirt with black tights and knee high black boots.
A criminal investigation
On October 21, police report that a passerby has recovered Harrington’s purse and cell phone, which is missing its battery. The items were found in a small parking lot between JPJ and athletic fields. There are no visible signs of struggle. State Police Lt. Joe Rader says that the police are conducting a criminal investigation into Harrington’s disappearance.
Harrington’s father refers to his daughter’s lack of contact with family and friends as “very atypical behavior.” On October 21, the Harrington family and friends gather a $50,000 reward for any information leading to Morgan’s whereabouts. Within two days the number is doubled, to $100,000. By October 28, Metallica contributes $50,000 to the reward—where it stands at $150,000—and posts a flyer on their website urging fans to help locate the missing woman. Police forces from the city, county and state, as well as the FBI, are now involved in the search for Harrington. Rader says the police receive more than 100 calls, 20 percent of which require immediate follow-up. As days wear on, the Daily Progress reports that police eventually receive more than 500 tips and leads.
Metallica played the JPJ on October 17, the night Morgan Harrington disappeared. The band later added $50,000 to the reward for any clues leading to Harrington’s return.
Publicity efforts begin
By October 23, Harrington’s parents launch a website—www.findmorgan.com—with photos of their missing daughter, downloadable flyers and personal messages. According to The Roanoke Times, hundreds of people gather at Northside High School in Roanoke, where Harrington studied until her junior year of high school, to pray for Harrington’s return.
On October 28, police discuss the details of Harrington’s last moments around JPJ, assembled from witness accounts. Harrington left her friends to visit the restroom, wound up outside the arena, and was denied re-entry to the concert. Accounts place her outside the arena at 8:20pm, and between 8:30pm and 8:48pm she conversed with people there. At 8:48pm she talked to a friend, saying she would try to find a ride home from friends in Charlottesville. At 9pm, someone who matches her description was seen walking alone through the University Hall parking lot, and later through Lannigan field (where her purse is later found) and at the intersection of Ivy and Copeley roads. She is reportedly last seen hitchhiking—something her mother said she would never do—on Copeley bridge.
A photo of a necklace identical to one Harrington was wearing on the night she disappeared was released.
A photo of a necklace identical to one Harrington was wearing on the night she disappeared was also released.
Search party organized
On Friday, November 6, the Laura Recovery Center organizes a mammoth search effort. Three hundred volunteers meet at the Cavalier Inn to discuss logistics of the search. Over three days, a total of 1,667 registered volunteers comb through nearly 2,600 acres of local land. They are joined by Ed Smart, father of one-time kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart. On November 9, a spokesperson for the state police say that, while discarded clothing and objects were recovered during the search, none proved “relevant to the case.”
According to Virginia State Police, Morgan Harrington went outside the JPJ before Metallica began their performance and was unable to go back in because of JPJ’s no re-entry policy.
Publicity efforts continue
Fighting to keep Harrington’s name in the headlines, her parents, Dan and Gil Harrington, appear on “Dr. Phil.” Harrington is featured on the cover of a November PEOPLE Magazine, among the faces of other missing persons.
Parents release dental records
On Friday, Dan and Gil Harrington visit Charlottesville to deliver their daughter’s dental records to the state police. The parents believe Harrington was abducted and that accomplices are involved. During their visit, the Harringtons post fliers and paint the family symbol on the Copeley Road bridge, where Morgan was last seen.
Anyone with information regarding Harrington’s disappearance is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at 977-4000, Virginia State Police at 352-2467, or UVA Police at 924-7166.—Compiled by staff