Two years since Morgan Harrington disappeared from the grounds around John Paul Jones Arena, her parents’ mourning looks more like a call to preventative action. Last week, Dan and Gil Harrington filed a $3.5 million lawsuit in a Roanoke court against contracted arena security group RMC Events, employees of which denied their daughter reentry to a Metallica concert the night she disappeared in 2009. The lawsuit arrived days before Virginia’s statute of limitations would have rendered such a suit void.
“The statute of limitations was up as of Monday,” Gil Harrington told C-VILLE in an interview. “We’re not clear on how to proceed from here, but we wanted to preserve the option.” The lawsuit “extends our investigation options for the next year.” UVA told C-VILLE last year that all staff would be "on a higher alert for patrons in distress."
They’ve also launched an online campaign, Help Save the Next Girl, which links information about their daughter’s death to state and national websites for missing people. Morgan’s body was found on Anchorage Farm in Albemarle County in January 2010, three months after she was reported missing. While DNA evidence linked her death with an assault in Fairfax, no suspect has been named—only sketched by state police. [FOR C-VILLE'S COVERAGE, CLICK HERE]
Gil Harrington says police also have taken a familial DNA sample from Morgan, and will evaluate new samples as they are received from other crimes. “The DNA information that I will hate to hear is that we find our perpetrator through a DNA hit from another homicide,” said Harrington. “We are working really hard to make that not be so.”
Morgan’s mother still blogs regularly at her family’s website, FindMorgan.com—long letters addressed to her dead daughter. Asked about the state of her family, Gil Harrington said, “I think we’ve been extraordinarily functional. Perhaps to our detriment, because we’re so pesky. We’re worker bees.”
Should they receive $3.5 million in damages from RMC Events, Gil Harrington said her family would endow the Morgan Dana Harrington Memorial Scholarship at Virginia Tech’s Carillion School of Medicine, as well as support costs for keeping up HelpSaveTheNextGirl.com and a medical orphanage in Zambia.
“We did not do this lightly,” said Gil Harrington about the lawsuit. “We did it with great trepidation. But I think we can make changes in the world with that funding, and that made it worthwhile.”
While Gil Harrington said she understands that some families deal with tragedy in a more private manner, she added that she feels a responsibility for keeping a public presence.
"We’ve really felt great urgency and determination to be part of shaking the tree and trying to make a murderer fall out," she said.