On June 13, law enforcement agencies kicked off a new multimedia campaign to solicit tips for the case of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who was killed in 2009 after attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville.
The campaign features a DNA-enhanced composite sketch that will be displayed on digital billboards and bus shelters along the east coast, a public service announcement from Metallica lead guitarist James Hetfield and social media outreach.
“Hopefully, with a new, DNA-enhanced composite, the man who has been hiding in plain sight will not be able to do so much longer,” said Gil Harrington, Morgan’s mother. “… And it’s more recognizable. We are hoping that someone will recognize this man--someone who serves him coffee, someone who takes his money when he buys groceries—and they’ll acknowledge the twitch in their intuition and the hair rising on the back of their neck and call the police.”
The composite, which was released last week, has already begun generating more tips.
Since the investigation began, the Virginia State Police, along with the FBI and other local law enforcement agencies, have received over 1,000 tips. But in the past year, only one or two have come in per month, according to Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman. However, 20-30 tips were received last week.
The public service announcement asks community members to call the police with any information they have.
“Remember, any information—no matter how small you might think it is—could be that crucial piece investigators need to help solve the case,” Hetfield says. Metallica is offering a $50,000 reward to a tip that leads to an arrest, and the Jefferson Area Crime Stoppers is offering another $100,000 reward.
Agencies hope that the campaign, which takes place in 23 states, will reach more community members than previous efforts.
“Especially with the summer travel season kicking off, you’ve got the public on the road, you’ve got people on the go and you’ve got people outside of Virginia that will be able to see the billboards and will hopefully recognize the individual in the composite,” Geller said.
Harrington said motivation for finding her daughter’s killer is two-fold.
“We are trying to help save the next girl. Morgan is dead, and I’m not really interested in punishment,” she said. “I do want to prevent further damage, and I don’t want this man to kill another person. That’s our motivation, as well as we’re trying to do some good things in Morgan’s memory and creating a positive legacy for her.
Morgan Harrington disappeared Oct. 17, 2009, during a Metallica concert at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. She left the arena alone and after being denied re-entry to the facility, she was last seen hitchhiking for a ride. Her skeletal remains were found Jan. 26, 2010, on a farm in Albemarle County.
Through DNA evidence, investigators have connected the case to a 2005 sexual assault case in Fairfax County.