Thursday, October 27, 2011

Morgan Harrington

Virginia State Police say the release of a composite sketch of a possible suspect linked to the Morgan Harrington investigation has led to 50 new tips in the case.

Investigators would like to thank the public for coming forward and say the tips have come in the form of phone calls and emails from across the country.

Those investigators are now going through those tips and scrutinizing the information provided.

According to retired FBI Criminal Profiler Greg McCrary, the new forensic tie is a big step forward, but only if police are able to identify its owner.

He says this connection likely means Morgan's killer is a serial rapist who preys on strangers and the Fairfax victim was likely not the first and if he remains on the loose, Harrington won't be the last. Someone who abducts and sexually assaults a stranger typically won't stop until they are stopped.

"They don't stop at just one or two," McCrary says. "So we've got a five-year period here where we really don't know what happened but I can't believe that this guy was perfectly well-behaved for five years."

McCrary says there are likely other women out there who may been the victim of an attempted rape or an attempted abduction by this man that have never reported the crime. Their identification could be the next step in this case.

McCrary says, "Especially women who have had any attempt to grab them, pull them, stalk them."

Women who perhaps know someone with violent tendencies with a connection to the Fairfax and Charlottesville areas and perhaps someone who has committed lesser crimes. McCrary says it's common that violent felons also commit property crimes.

Having a forensic tie helps, but investigators need more. McCrary says, "The challenge now is to find a viable suspect to find someone to match that sample but you're going to know him when you find him."

McCrary says more often than not composite sketches are not accurate and as a result can rule out suspects they shouldn't. Nevertheless the connection tells police and the public more about Morgan's killer. McCrary says, "This is a really significant development and does bring some new hope that this case will be resolved successfully."

UPDATE 7/1/10 11:45 p.m.

CBS 6 spoke Thursday night with the man who owns the Albemarle County farm where Morgan Harrington's body was found.

David Bass says that while he's glad police have a new lead in this case, he doesn't recognize the sketch of the possible suspect.

That suspect has been linked to both Harrington's murder and a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax. Investigators have long said that they believe that whoever killing Harrington is familiar with the rural area where her body was discovered.

UPDATE 7/1/10 6:34 p.m.

Virginia State Police have released a composite sketch of the man they believe may have been involved in the disappearance and murder of 20-year-old Morgan Harrington.

Investigators say evidence found in the investigation into Harrington's death matches evidence recovered after a Northern Virginia woman was abducted and sexually assaulted in 2005.

Virginia State Police say this is a major stop in the investigation and they are going public with the picture to get more eyes on the case in hopes of making an identification.

Corinne Geller with Virginia State Police says, "Ultimately we're going to find the person responsible for Morgan's death and we're going to take that person to court and bring that person to justice."

Authorities are remaining vague about what the forensic link is to protect the integrity of the case, but Morgan's father Dan Harrington spoke to CBS 6 and he believes DNA found on his daughter's clothing or on her body that is the link between the two cases.

This latest development is giving police and the Harrington's new hope for finding Morgan's killer. Morgan's mother, Gil Harrington says, "The likelihood of an arrest and a conviction increased astronomically. It's no longer just a matter of testimony, it's hard evidence."

Here is the news release from Virginia State Police:


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.  State and local investigators are pursuing a forensic connection between the disappearance and death of Virginia Tech student, Morgan Harrington, and an unsolved 2005 abduction and sexual assault in the City of Fairfax. Investigators are asking for the public's help in identifying the suspect in the Fairfax case based on a composite sketch of the man.

Forensic evidence recovered during the course of the Harrington investigation has confirmed the link to the City of Fairfax assault. In September 2005, a Fairfax woman was abducted and sexually assaulted and City of Fairfax Police detectives were able to create a composite sketch based on the victim's description of the suspect. However, the suspect may have changed his appearance over the course of the past five years.

Harrington, 20, of Roanoke, Va., went missing from the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville during a Metallica concert on the night of Oct. 17, 2009. Her remains were discovered Jan. 26, 2010, by the landowner of Anchorage Farm in southern Albemarle County. The skeletal remains were located in a field on the 700-acre property. Morgan Harrington's death is being investigated as a homicide.

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