Unknown Offender Linked by DNA in Two Separate Cases
On a Saturday night in October 2009, college student Morgan Harrington left a Metallica concert at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and disappeared. It would be several months before her body was discovered in a field about 10 miles away.
We need your help to find Harrington’s killer. The individual we are seeking has also been linked by DNA to a sexual assault in Fairfax City, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Today, the Virginia State Police, Fairfax City Police, and the FBI released two enhanced sketches of the suspect and are reminding the public there is a reward of up to $150,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the Harrington case.
The multimedia campaign being launched today to draw attention to the investigation will include information on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a public service announcement by Metallica, and electronic billboards in Virginia and along the East Coast.
“Bringing renewed attention to the case will get people thinking about it again,” said Virginia State Police Special Agent Dino Cappuzzo. “Our hope is that someone will come forward and provide a crucial piece of information that will help us solve the murder.”
Harrington was a 20-year-old student at Virginia Tech when she went to the concert that Saturday, October 17, at the John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virginia campus. At about 8:30 p.m., she left the building and was unable to get back inside. She was last seen hitchhiking nearby.
Her remains were discovered the following January in a remote field on a farm in Albemarle County, Virginia. A camera she had that night and a distinctive Swarovski crystal necklace she was wearing have not been recovered.
FBI agents in our Charlottesville Resident Agency have been assisting state investigators, and profilers from our Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) have also provided consultation.
“A lot of BAU’s work focused on the location of the body and what that told us about the offender,” Cappuzzo said. “We believe he was intimately familiar with the farm and the surrounding area where the body was recovered. He may have been comfortable there and felt he was not at risk of getting caught.”
DNA recovered in the Harrington case was linked to an unknown offender in a September 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax City. A 26-year-old woman 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.
“It was a remarkable break to get the DNA match,” said FBI Special Agent Jane Collins. The forensic evidence linked the two cases, so now we have a face to put with the suspect in the Harrington case. The suspect is described as an African-American male with black hair and facial hair (at the time of the 2005 attack). He is approximately 6 feet tall and was believed to be between the ages of 25 and 35 years old at the time of the Fairfax City assault.
Help us catch Morgan Harrington’s killer. If you have any information about the Harrington case or the Fairfax City assault, contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or the Virginia State Police Tip line at 434-352-3467, or submit a tip online.
A Familiar Face?
We are asking the public to review the sketches and other information in the Morgan Harrington and Fairfax City cases and consider whether they know someone who fits this description or who lived or had ties to the areas around the times of the assaults.
People who know the suspect may not believe he is capable of committing such crimes. He may not have a violent criminal history. Because investigators have DNA evidence that can positively link the suspect to his crimes—or exclude innocent parties—the public should not hesitate to provide information.
The Jefferson Area Crime Stoppers is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Morgan’s murder. The band Metallica has added an additional $50,000 to that amount.