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Remains found near Charlottesville may be of missing student Morgan Harrington

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Dan and Gil Harrington, the parents of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who disappeared attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Va., three months ago, speak about their daughter and how they live their day-to-day lives.

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By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The months-long search for Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who vanished outside an Oct. 17 rock concert in Charlottesville, appeared to have ended Tuesday when skeletal remains were discovered on a farm several miles southwest of where she was last seen alive.

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Police said they think the skeletal remains are Harrington's. Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent, said an autopsy would be conducted to confirm that the remains are hers.

For family and friends who had tirelessly searched and prayed for Harrington's safe return, hope turned to sorrow. They mourned the death of the vibrant 20-year-old who planned to become a teacher and was known for her eclectic taste in music -- she appreciated everything from Black Sabbath to Barry Manilow.

The night of her disappearance, Harrington got separated from friends at a Metallica concert in Charlottesville. She ended up outside the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena and couldn't get back in. She talked to one of her friends by cellphone, saying not to worry, that she'd get home on her own. But she never made it.

Harrington was last seen about 9:30 p.m., walking alone on the Copeley Road railroad bridge near the arena, a site that has since become a shrine of sorts. She had a scratch on her chin, witnesses told police, but officers said they think it probably was from an accidental bump or fall, not an attack. Her purse and cellphone were found the next day in a grassy lot used for overflow parking.

After her disappearance, police reviewed surveillance camera footage and asked fans to check concert photos for signs of Harrington. Police and friends handed out missing-person posters. The family created a Web site to help in the search. But every avenue turned up empty.

Then, about 10 a.m. Tuesday, police were contacted by a man who found human remains on his farm near Interstate 64 southwest of Charlottesville. He said he found the remains while he was on a tractor in a remote hayfield on his 700-acre farm. The hay would have been waist-high at the time Harrington disappeared.

People from across the country, and even around the world, followed the search for Harrington as her parents, Gil and Daniel, chronicled their anguish in a blog, hoping someone would come forward to help them find their daughter. The Harringtons said they received notes of encouragement from as far away as Japan.

On Jan. 12, Gil Harrington posted this thought: "I remind myself that this is not in my hands and that the truth cannot be hidden forever -- it will out. I pray that the truth of this crime shows itself while Morgan is still alive. I have no interest in recovering a body. I would rather not know and always have some morsel of hope."

Morgan Harrington was close to her parents and visited their Roanoke house often. She also had a brother, Alex. Her family said Harrington had a close circle of friends. She loved to curl up with books. And she spent her high school summers working with children who have seen domestic violence.

Gil Harrington last saw her daughter the morning of the concert. Morgan Harrington tried on several outfits for the concert, with her mother offering fashion advice. They settled on a black Pantera T-shirt, black miniskirt, black tights and knee-high black boots. Harrington talked to her father by phone.

The 20-year-old bounded out of the house about noon, saying goodbye to her mother using the family's traditional greeting: "Two, four, one, Mama." Shorthand for: "I love you too much, forever, and one more time."


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