Can we solve the Morgan Harrington murder (the Metallica disappearance case) soon?

As of this past weekend, it’s been going on four years in the case of Morgan Harrington’s murder. If you don’t know the basic story, she was a Virginia Tech student attending a Metallica concert at UVA (in Charlottesville) in October 2009. She was apparently seen hitch-hiking nearby the arena after getting locked out of the show. Her remains were found in January 2010 on a farm about 10 miles from her last known whereabouts. There have been suspects over time — all cleared for now — but the case got a break when the DNA on Harrington was linked to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax, VA:

The 2005 victim was a 26-year-old woman who was attacked at night while walking home from a grocery store. The offender was scared away by a passerby, but the victim got a good look at him, enabling a Fairfax City Police artist to produce a sketch of the attacker, the FBI said.

There have been similar cases — not DNA-linked — in Virginia over the past few years, including Alexis Murphy and Dashad “Sage” Smith, whose parents recently marked a vigil with Harrington’s parents. Obviously, Gil Harrington (Morgan’s dad) summed it up the best:

“It’s particularly painful because in those four years, the criminal, the predator who killed our daughter is still walking around free,” Gil Harrington said.

If you’re a big fan of the police procedural, or even follow the true crime world, you know that it’s supposed to be a good thing when there’s a previous DNA hit — that should make the person easier to catch. But the flip side is that if he hasn’t acted since the fall of 2009, he may never be caught (depending on what happens with his DNA entering other accessible databases).

I used to watch Disappeared on the regular (I’ve seen probably every episode of that show), and the Morgan Harrington case stood out more than most. You can watch it here on Amazon Prime.

Here’s a visual timeline of Harrington’s disappearance, and here’s a more text-based one from UVA. You can find a composite sketch of the current suspect (the DNA linked one) here, and read about the connection to UVA basketball (since closed, I believe) here.

For a while, this was known as “The Metallica Case” or “The Heavy Metal Murder” (because people love to give flashy titles to murders and murderers, for whatever reason) because of the fact Harrington was at a Metallica concert the night of her disappearance, and because the band put up reward money:

Meanwhile, the events surrounding her disappearance from the show are in the “probably could have been prevented” category, which is just awful:

On the same night it barred an injured and disoriented Morgan Harrington from reentering UVA’s John Paul Jones Arena during a Metallica concert in October 2009, the firm providing concert security helped an intoxicated off-duty Fairfax police officer attending the show to find a safe ride, according to an amended complaint against Richmond-based RMC Events, filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court by Morgan’s mother, Gil Harrington.

There’s a mild — probably a better word is potential — break from last summer:

Basically, two women reported an attempted abduction in June — about 0.2 miles from where Harrington was found:

Officers responded to a report of attempted abduction at the 800 block of Cabell Ave where allegedly two females were walking down Madison Ave when they saw that two men were following. They continued on, keeping an eye on the males behind them and entered their apartment complex. The men followed.

As the women approached their apartment, one went to open the door while the other stood by. Then, “one of the males grabbed the waiting female from behind,” the police report reads. Though she fought back, screaming and using her elbows to her advantage, her companion was then approached by the second male.

The suspects fled after the women screamed in unison, but not much more is known about the incident.

The suspects were described by one of the victims  as “possibly African American,” but the other woman was unsure of his race. Both victims said that the suspect were wearing navy blue tanks with “Love Me” printed in yellow across their chests.

There’s been no official link between Harrington and that attempted abduction, but the video above the description goes into a little more detail.

The saddest part of this story in its current incarnation is that we’ve passed four years since the discovery of the remains; we should be solving this by now. Obviously, the murderer hasn’t messed up on the DNA side since that link was made, and hopefully he does soon. Until then, think of Morgan Harrington and her family and hope this is solved before the half-decade anniversary.

Ted Bauer


  1. Love your efforts here. I don’t know if anything ever came from that attempted abduction, but I found this tank… and you would think that someone from UVA would probably remember if 2 or more of their buddies had matching shirts. It would make sense for the girls to disagree on lettering color if it was 2 different colors, and if it was dark and quick not being able to see the word “ladies” in the darker tone.


  2. Now Lj Matthew’s sister has the same sunglasses, and jewelry on the Morgan Harrington has on in the picture. She works at Vinegar Hill café in Charlottesville. It’s not far from Hanna’s last known location.

Comments are closed.