The Washington Post

FBI, police launch media campaign in Va. Tech student’s slaying

Morgan Harrington. (Family photo)

The FBI and area police announced the launch of a media campaign Wednesday meant to draw attention to the 2009 abduction and killing of a Virginia Tech student.

The effort will include a public-service announcement from James Hetfield, lead guitarist of the band Metallica, seeking the public’s help in solving the slaying of Morgan Harrington, 20. She was last seen hitchhiking after leaving early from a Metallica concert in Charlottesville on Oct. 17, 2009.

Harrington’s skeletal remains were found Jan. 26, 2010, in what the FBI called a “remote field” on an Albemarle County farm about 10 miles from the concert venue, the John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia.

Authorities have used DNA analysis to link Harrington’s slaying to a sexual assault in 2005 in Fairfax City, and the FBI said it would place a composite sketch of the suspect on bus shelters and digital billboards in the District, Richmond and Roanoke.

The bureau also launched a Web site, which includes videos and a photo gallery, to bring attention to the case. A Virginia group is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the Harrington’s killer, and Metallica has pitched in an additional $50,000 in reward money, the FBI said.

The campaign is being modeled after those that led to arrests in the East Coast Rapist case and the capture of James “Whitey” Bulger, a reputed mobster who was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. FBI Agent Jacqueline Maguire, a spokeswoman for the bureau’s Washington Field Office, said in an interview that “along with Virginia State Police and our FBI Richmond office, we are committed to solving this horrific crime. We believe the case will benefit from this publicity.”

Harrington has been described as a music buff who left her parents’ home in Roanoke about noon on the day of the concert. Seeking a restroom inside the arena, she ended up outside the facility and couldn’t get back in, police have said. Just before 9 p.m., she called a friend and said that she’d find her way home.

Harrington was last seen about 9:30 p.m. walking alone on the Copeley Road railroad bridge near the arena. By that time, she had a scratch on her face, but police think it was from a fall.

Her purse and cellphone were found the next day in a grassy lot used for overflow concert parking.

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