Remains identified as missing Virginia Tech student

State police confirm skeletal remains found in a remote farm field are those of missing Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. The 20-year-old disappeared in October after a concert.
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 28, 2010

When Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington went missing Oct. 17, her family began a tireless search. Now they are focused on honoring the memory of the bright young woman and searching for her killer.

Virginia State Police said Wednesday that human remains found on a farm southwest of Charlottesville have been conclusively identified as Harrington's.

Her parents, Daniel and Gil, and her brother, Alex, gathered Wednesday at the Copeley Road railroad bridge in Charlottesville, where Morgan Harrington was last seen alive. The bridge, once a spot where the family went to pray and plead for their daughter's return, has become a memorial of flowers and notes.

"At least we now have some peace and we're able to have some closure today," Daniel Harrington said. "We now need to find the person who did this, and we will not stop until that person is brought to justice."

Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old education major, was last seen after she was separated from friends outside a Metallica concert at the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena. State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the medical examiner has not determined how Harrington died or concluded that she was murdered. But Geller said police have been treating the case as a homicide.

Harrington's parents are convinced that their daughter was abducted that October evening. They said the condition of her remains indicates that she probably died soon after she went missing. "For the first time in 101 days, I am not thinking every minute, 'What is he doing to my daughter now? What is he doing to her? What is she having to endure?' " Gil Harrington said. "She was a long time in that field. I am happy that she was not alive long, enduring unspeakable things."

Daniel Harrington said he and his wife flew in a police helicopter over parts of the 700-acre farm where the body was found in a remote hayfield. Police said the hay was last cut in August and probably would have been about waist-high in October. There is no public access to the field, authorities said.

The Harringtons think that Morgan was the victim of a predator who knows the area well. "This is not a random place that someone came upon accidentally," Daniel Harrington said. "This is known to someone here."

Even as they focus on the criminal investigation, the Harringtons said they are searching for the best ways to make sure their daughter is not forgotten.

Morgan Harrington wanted to be a teacher, and she spent her high school summers working with children who have witnessed domestic violence. She liked to get dressed up to go out but was as comfortable in ratty sneakers as she was in high heels, her parents said. She loved to read, devouring everything from the Harry Potter books and the "Twilight" series to classics such as "To Kill a Mockingbird." Perhaps, Daniel Harrington said, they will launch a national campaign to boost safety on college campuses.

"We can figure out how we can honor Morgan and remember Morgan, and maybe make it a safer place for all," he said.

Police ask that anyone with information about Harrington call Virginia State Police at 434-924-7166 or e-mail

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