UPDATE: Crimestoppers Offers $100,000 Reward in Morgan Harrington Search

By: Bianca Spinosa, Liz Palka, Jessica Jaglois Email
By: Bianca Spinosa, Liz Palka, Jessica Jaglois Email

October 23, 2009

The search continues for missing Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. Friday, Crimestoppers announced a $100,000 reward for any information leading to the 20-year-old's whereabouts.

It's one of the largest rewards the area has ever seen. The money has been anonymously donated, but Fred Payne, the treasurer of Crimestoppers, said this is an indication of how serious this misisng person's case is.

"The people who've given the money are obviously very concerned about her whereabouts, and are going to do everything they can to get her back," says Fred Payne with Crimestoppers.

October 22, 2009

Virginia State Police and UVa Police are continuing their ground search around the University of Virginia Thursday for any further clues about Morgan Harrington's disappearance.

They're focusing their attention on the area behind the UVa track and the Davenport baseball field. A State Police spokesperson tells the Newsplex they've received some new tips that caused them to search the area again Thursday.

Police say Morgan Harrington's purse was found in a parking lot near the athletic fields, but there was no sign of a struggle in the vicinity. Police say there aren't any plans to bring back the search helicopter unless they decide they need it.

The search for the 20-year-old Virginia Tech student is also stretching into the valley. Students at James Madison University are handing out flyers, hoping that someone may have information that could help find the missing woman.

Harrington met up with friends at JMU before heading to Charlottesville for the Metallica concert Saturday night.

A student who is heading up the search effort at JMU says the most important thing they can do to help find Harrington is to spread the word about her disappearance quickly.

Friends of Harrington are holding a candlelight vigil at Northside High School in Roanoke County Thursday night at 7:00 p.m.

A reward of $100,000 is being offered by the Harrington family. Investigators have also set up a new tip line dedicated solely to the search for Morgan Harrington. The new number for that tip line is 434-352-3467.

EVENING UPDATE - October 21, 2009:

Lieutenant Joe Rader said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Charlottesville that Virginia State Police do not know if Morgan Dana Harrington is still alive or has met “an ill fate”. Police investigators are treating the disappearance of Harrington as a missing person case within the parameters of a criminal investigation. However, Lt. Rader made it clear that there has been no reliable information that criminal misconduct has occurred.

Investigators planned to conclude the localized ground search of the John Paul Jones Arena and surrounding areas, including Klockner Stadium, the University of Virginia track, and Davenport Field early Wednesday evening. They believe that the ground search has been very extensive, but has not revealed any clues at this point. Lt. Rader added that unless new information becomes available, there will be no further air searches of the JPJ area.

Lt. Rader says police have interviewed Morgan’s friends as well as people who saw Morgan either inside JPJ or outside the arena. They can confirm that Morgan was on the grounds outside JPJ until at least 9:30pm Saturday night. Police say Morgan exited the concert for reasons unknown and due to the John Paul Jones arena policy, was not allowed to re-enter the venue. Police have confirmed that Morgan contacted her friends while she was outside the arena to let them know she would be unable to re-enter the concert, which was the last known contact Morgan had with her friends.

Police also confirmed that Morgan Harrington's purse and cell phone were found in the parking lot between JPJ and the athletic fields. They say there appeared to be no signs of a struggle, however. Police also say the battery was taken out of the cell phone, but add it could have fallen out.

Rader was asked if Harrington was drunk or stoned when she left the arena. He didn't answer directly, but did say she was able to move about the facility on her own power.

Police have reviewed surveillance camera footage from the John Paul Jones Arena and surrounding area, but Lt. Rader said Wednesday that nothing has come of that effort.

A reward of at least $50,000 will be set up by the Harrington family through Crimestoppers in the next 24 hours. Investigators have also set up a new tip line dedicated solely to the search for Morgan Harrington. The new number for that tip line is 434-352-3467 and is being manned all day and all night. Lt. Rader said that police have received over 100 calls to the original tip line, with 20% of those calls he described as being “leads that needed immediate attention”.

Charlottesville and Albemarle Police are aiding the UVa Police and Virginia State Police with their investigation.

Rader said a police SWAT team aided in the search Wednesday but that was only because they were already planning on doing some training and it was convenient to use them to help.

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October 21, 2009 (morning update)

University of Virginia Police, Virginia State Police, and members of the FBI are actively searching for Morgan Harrington Wednesday around Davenport Field, where the UVa. baseball team plays its home games.

Wednesday morning, UVa. and State Police were seen searching the woods around Davenport Field and the track near Klockner Stadium. The UVa. track, Klockner Stadium, and Davenport Field are all part of a sports complex that is only one block away from the John Paul Jones Arena, where Morgan was last seen.

Morgan's parents, Dan and Gil Harrington, told reporters she was last seen going to the bathroom inside JPJ around 8:40pm Saturday night. They say Morgan then went outside before Metallica took the stage; security would not let her back inside. Gil Harrington told CNN's Nancy Grace that Morgan's purse was found across the street in the University Hall parking lot, not far from Klockner Stadium.

Avid heavy metal fan and CBS19 Chief Meteorologist Travis Koshko attended the Metallica concert Saturday night, and he says it was the safest metal concert he's seen.

"The thing that surprised me the most of all about this concert was how calm it was and how safe and in control the security was in the venue. There were policemen inside and outside. Yes, there were a few mosh pits, but those were suppressed," he said.

As Metallica continues their tour, they have released a statement on their web site titled "One of Our Fans is Missing".

We are deeply concerned about the disappearance of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Dana Harrington, who was last seen while attending our concert at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA, on Saturday night.

Police announced Wednesday morning that they will hold another news conference Wednesday afternoon at 3pm.
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October 20, 2009

Almost three days after a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student from Roanoke vanished outside the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia State Police and University of Virginia Police continue to look for her. Investigators say they are following up on a couple dozen new leads that have come in since Monday's news conference with Morgan Harrington's parents.

A job fair was held at John Paul Jones Arena Tuesday. Hundreds of job seekers showed up, but just a few hundred feet away, down in the creek, police probed with batons, trying to find any bit of evidence. Police spent about fifteen minutes looking over a black piece of cloth. We could not confirm exactly what it was, though it looked like a tarp or a T-shirt. Police collected it for further information.

Fliers headlined "Missing" and explaining the mysterious disappearance of Harrington are being posted around Charlottesville as well.

Police investigators say they've received a couple dozen calls regarding Harrington's disappearance, and are following up on them. Each tip is prioritized based on the information provided.

Police are still encouraging the public to come forward with any information, especially those who may have gone to the Metallica concert Saturday night at John Paul Arena.

Anyone who may have been recording or taking pictures of the concert and/or audience with a camera or a cell phone Saturday night is asked to look over the video and pictures for someone who might resemble Morgan Harrington and contact State Police or UVa. police.

Harrington was last seen at 8:40 pm Saturday. She had gone inside JPJ with a group of friends, but ended up getting separated from them during the concert.

Read the story below for a detailed description of Morgan Harrington, and her parents' plea for her safe return.
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Original Story:

Virginia State Police are searching the University of Virginia area for a missing Virginia Tech student. What was supposed to be a fun night out for 20-year-old Morgan Harrington has turned into a nightmare for her family.

Harrington was last seen Saturday night in Charlottesville at around 8:40 p.m. with some friends at a Metallica concert. Now, her family is speaking out, asking the public for help in finding their daughter.

Holding back tears, Harrington's parents are hopeful that their daughter will come home safe.

"Please come home. If someone has Morgan, please let her come home safely," says Dan Harrington, Morgan's father.

Harrington traveled to Charlottesville with a group of friends to see the popular metal band Metallica. She met up with a group at James Madison University, and they all made it to the John Paul Jones Arena safely, but State Police say Saturday night, Morgan Harrington somehow got separated from her friends.

Morgan's father reported her missing on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. She was supposed to be back home to take an exam she had been studying for. Morgan's father said it was uncharacteristic of her not to call.

Police say if Harrington is found, she probably won't have any identification or cell phone on her. They would not specify why. Our sister station ABC13 in Lynchburg reports that the Harrington's family Pastor says Morgan's purse was found in the parking lot of the John Paul Jones Arena.

"That's our biggest concern. It's unusual that her friends and family haven't heard anything regarding her whereabouts. That's the biggest concern- is her whereabouts and her welfare," says Lt. Joe Rader from the Virginia State Police

The search for Morgan Harrington is a missing persons investigation, which means police believe there's still a chance she's alive. Search helicopters and canines have been heavily searching the UVa area in hopes of finding some clues about what happened to her in Charlottesville.

Throughout this difficult and heart wrenching ordeal, Harrington's mom is staying hopeful.

"She has her Halloween costume picked out, and we'd love to see her walking around in it. She's got a dog that's missing her. Let's bring her back, and she can address all these things, so she can be back with her family," said Gil Harrington.

Morgan Harrington was last seen wearing a black Pantera shirt, a black skirt, black tights, and knee high black boots. She's 5'6" and weighs about 120 lbs.


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