Police ‘Fairly Confident’ They’ve Found Body of Missing Metallica Fan Morgan Harrington
Virginia State Police Col. Steve Flaherty made the announcement, "with a heavy heart" during a press conference held at the scene where forensic teams are "fairly confident" that skeletal remains found on a remote farm with no public access "are those of Morgan Harrington." The remains will be autopsied soon, and until then, police cannot say with "100 percent certainty that it is Miss Harrington," Flaherty said.
The partially skeletonized remains of the missing 20-year-old Virginia Tech student were found on a farm just south of Charlottesville, Va., where Morgan Harrington attended an Oct. 17 Metallica concert with friends. She was last seen in Charlottesville when she became separated from her friends after using the bathroom. She mysteriously ended up outside the venue, where there is a no re-entry policy.
Forensic teams were called to the Albemarle County farm on Tuesday morning, and it was revealed early on by police that the remains were of a blonde female. Harrington's parents, Dan and Gil Harrington, were summoned to the scene, leading several to speculate early that the body was, indeed, that of Morgan's. According to police, Harrington was last seen on a bridge near the concert venue, possibly hitchinghiking.
The grisly discovery brings a tragic end to more than three months of tireless investigation by state and local authorities into Harrington's disappearance, and it comes after scores of phoned-in tips and well-attended ground searches for the girl, who was last seen wearing a Pantera shirt, a black skirt and black boots. Early reports indicated clothing similar to what Morgan was wearing were found on the scene.
If the remains are, in fact, those of Morgan Harrington, Flaherty says the investigation will move into a new phase, where police will determine "how she came to be at this remote locale, what the time of death is, and identify who was responsible." He says the public still needs to come forward with any information they may have about the case.
According to Lt. Joe Rader, police have "always treated it as a homicide, and will proceed as if this still is a homicide, and most likely is a homicide," but would not answer reporters' questions about why police are so confident that the body is Morgan's, saying that police "must be careful, because we have a perpetrator or perpetrators at large that we certainly intend to catch and prosecute."
Rader says he wants to maintain the integrity of the investigation and met with Morgan's parents, who are "reacting as parents would react in this situation." Rader says the body was found in a hay field, which was last plowed in August. At the time of Morgan's disappearance, the hay field would have grown waste high.
"We have information we discovered at the scene that gives us confidence that it is Morgan Harrington," he added. "What we see on the scene is consistent with it being Morgan Harrington. The result is not what we were looking for. Now, we need to do what we know we can do well and that is bring this person to justice."
The Harringtons may have closure before the end of the day, as officials believe a positive identification could be made as early as tonight.