Morgan Harrington: Parents of Murdered Metallica Fan Continue to Get Support From Band (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)
The metal community was rocked to its core when the blonde and beautiful Morgan Harrington, 20, went missing from a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Va. in 2009. Her remains, including a Pantera t-shirt she was wearing to the show, were found a few months later. Metallica took a personal interest in the case as fathers, as opposed to merely a band concerned about a fan. Ever since, they've been going above and beyond. They donated $150,000 to the reward fund, as well as $50,000 to a scholarship that was created in her memory.
Metallica donated another $40,000 of profits from a special 'Enter Sandman' t-shirt to the Virginia Tech medical school scholarship fund in Harrington's name, which was a surprise to her parents. It's touching how the band has not forgotten Morgan and her family in the three years since her death. Their support has been consistent and unwavering, and not in a flashy way, either.
Morgan's lovely parents, Dan and Gil Harrington, continue to keep the unsolved case in the press and forefront of the authorities' minds as much as they can. At this point, they can't get their daughter back, but they want to do everything they can to prevent the perpetrator from repeating the crime and claiming another victim.
Morgan's mother, Gil Harrington, spoke to Noisecreep about Metallica's involvement from the get-go. The band never tried to avoid or skirt any bad press that was related to a fan disappearing from their show, instead opting to put all hands on deck. "It has been humbling from the very beginning," Gil said. "Two days after Morgan was abducted, they could have distanced themselves from an ugly occurrence. But James Hetfield called this house to speak to Dan, as a father, and asked, 'What can we do?' Three years out, they are still doing things. James participated with the FBI and did public service announcements."
The band also generated the first "missing person" poster and put it on a Metallica fan site to try and help find Morgan. "It's a visceral response as fathers," Gil mused. "They were not liability driven or self-protecting."
That's incredibly impactful, since much like the Penn State case, where officials turned their heads despite athletic department employee Jerry Sandusky molesting children in order to protect the university's reputation and sports program, local authorities don't want to create a culture of fear in their region.
Watch Morgan Harrison Press Conference
"Part of our task is pushing a stone uphill," Gil said. "Communities and universities do not want to be the place where young women are abducted and murdered. We can't, as parents, forget that. We started a foundation, Help Save the Next Girl, to create a culture of safety. We want to find this guy, too, since that community is not safe. There is a serial offender walking around. The communities want to protect the community and the university wants to protect the endowment."
She continued, "Morgan loved to go to concerts. If she went to a concert in New York City, she would have been on guard and vigilant, since it's New York City. But a college town? That's like home. That idea of safety in those places or comfort is encouraged. When Morgan was abducted, people immediately said that it must have been someone with the band or a fan. I said from the beginning that's a nice thing to say or think...that it's easy to say a transient came into town. But we know this is someone from the local community."
As of right now, the case is unsolved, but Gil Harrington believes that they will find the DNA of their daughter's killer from his next victim, which is a terrifying thought. That is why she and her husband continue to keep the case alive in the media as best they can -- to prevent another murder and another victim.
"I have to know that we did everything we could to prevent that," Mrs. Harrington, an oncology nurse, said. "If that is how we find him, I know we did what we could. I don't want to sit back and wait. We push the case, the interest in the media. It's too late for Morgan. Morgan's dead. This guy will be punished in the next life. But I cannot sit back. We could go upstairs and pull the quilts over our heads and rock, but we want to save the next girl and raise awareness. We keep ringing the bell. People are sick of hearing us...I want to know we did everything we can. Even if it doesn't change the outcome, I can handle it better knowing we didn't sit back and wait."
Watch James Hetfield's Video Plea
While she knows that her daughter had "an agonizing, terrible death," Gil finds comfort in knowing Morgan had "20 years of loving and a great life, but had one helluva bad day. I cannot change that day, but I know everything up until then was great. We have been determined to not let evil have its way. She was a special person. Many of the good things she would have brought to the world are happening in her honor. We built a school in Africa for her. She wanted to teach kids; but she can't, she's dead. But many will be educated in her name. That came from sitting here, in a moment of sorrow, a year-and-a-half ago. All I have is ashes. Everyone else is moving on and I am stuck with a box of ashes. But from ashes, you can make cinderblocks. Even from ashes, there is a way to move forward. If we don't move forward we found ourselves in, the guy who murdered her wins. I won't let him create collateral damage. He had one shot."
That said, anyone who might have even a speck of information, no matter how small, about the Morgan Harrington case, is encouraged to come forward.
Additionally, Joe Rader, a retired Virginia State police officer who worked on the case, shared an open letter in November, pleading for people who might have information on the case to make themselves known.
The full text of his letter is below.
An Open Letter to the Person with Information on Morgan Harrington's Death
You know my face and voice because you have closely followed the case. Now, I no longer speak as a cop or for the state police, but as a father, husband, brother, friend to others and person of faith. I retired from law enforcement and the case, but their hard work continues every day. I have not run away from wanting to help find the TRUTH of what happened that chilly October night at JPJA and the bridge in Charlottesville, VA. Some people evaluated every word I said in press conferences as some sort of secret coded messages, but that was never the case.
So there is no confusion for you, I will be very blunt- YOU are not the same person you were in October 2009, because you hold the TRUTH of what happened to Morgan that October night and it has consumed your conscience every day. You see, you have important information from that night! It is time for YOU to DO THE RIGHT THING and free the burden of your conscience with the information you have. It is time for YOU to stand up in the name of humanity and justice. It is time for YOU to show that you have a sympathetic and dignified place in your heart so heavily troubled, regardless of your involvement in the circumstances leading to Morgan's death.
Money has not brought you forward, but I understand it. No amount of money can clear a conscience that hides the truth. So what has held you back from making that call? Maybe you talked to law-enforcement and they missed your message. It can happen, so pick up the phone and call the VSP, AMW, FBI, or Crime Stoppers tip line. You have no excuses of lack of options to call! Is it embarrassment, fear, stigma, or skepticism that your information might point the finger at you? YOU have the TRUTH that will lead to solving the case, and that information will set your conscience free and bring peace to a family. The facts you have can be verified, but you must be totally honest. Half-truths are no more than little lies and will not relieve your heavy burden. It is time for YOU to come full circle and DO THE RIGHT THING!
How have YOU faced your children, friends, siblings or parents these past couple of years? I bet YOU have imagined the pain of losing one of them to a death that was senseless! I bet YOU would fight every battle to bring them back or at least find the TRUTH and the person responsible. YOU would accept nothing less than for people to fight for your cause if you had suffered the same tragedy. I know YOU have a conscience because you consider these things and it makes you nauseated! What have you seen when you look in the mirror? That has to be an image that causes you shame because you have the answers and know YOU must DO THE RIGHT THING.
So, there is no option to free you of this burden except to make the call now. One day, we all will face the judgment of who we believe is our Creator. At that time, there is no second chance to clear your conscience because you failed to DO THE RIGHT THING. Maybe you are not religious, but I wonder if you haven't sought forgiveness from a Higher Authority. If so, I am certain you haven't found that peace because you have yet to DO THE RIGHT THING! Call the tip lines or Crime Stoppers with the information that you know will bring this case to a conclusion. Call someone that you feel comfortable will talk to you and the police to understand what happened that night with Morgan Harrington! Do THE RIGHT THING now!
Retired Lieutenant, Virginia State Police
Watch NBC Interview with the Harringtons
The Harrington family is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Morgan Harrington's murder.
In addition, Metallica is offering an additional $50,000 to the reward bringing it to $150,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Morgan's murder. Head over to www.FindMorgan.com for more information.