It has been more than a week since a 20-year-old college student called her friends at a Metallica concert to say she was outside the arena and would find her own way home. Now the famed heavy-metal rockers are participating in the search for her, adding $50,000 to the reward for information leading to her whereabouts.
While investigators attempt to discover what happened to a young woman described as open, beautiful, artistic and giving, Morgan Harrington’s parents, Dan and Gil Harrington, have been keeping a high public profile, trying to focus attention on the disappearance.
“One word that comes to mind when you think of Morgan is ‘shiny,’ ” Morgan’s mother, Gil Harrington told TODAY’s Amy Robach during a recent interview. “She was beautiful and she was beautiful inside, too. She radiated life.”
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Young adults sometimes disappear intentionally, but the Harringtons were uncommonly close to their daughter. A student at Virginia Tech, about 35 miles from her parents, she talked to her father every day and trusted him with her computer passwords and the key to her apartment. She also spoke with her mother daily and frequently returned home to visit.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, Morgan Harrington spent the day at home planning with her mother what she was going to wear at the Metallica concert she planned to attend at the University of Virginia.
Such days were the norm for the family, Gil (pronounced “Jill”) Harrington told Robach.
“It was a regular day for us: got up, made tea, had coffee, chatted some, showed the outfits, showed me how she was going to do her make-up,” the mother recalled.
Morgan went with friends to the concert. Sometime between 8:30 and 9 p.m., she called her friends to say she had gone to the restroom and ended up outside John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virgina campus in Charlottesville. She told them she wasn’t allowed back in and would find another way home.
The next day, her phone and purse were found in a parking lot near the arena. Morgan, who never went anywhere without her cell phone, hasn’t been seen since.
“We have a purse and we have a cell phone. We have a missing girl,” Lt. Joe Rader of the Virginia State Police, told reporters last week. “We do not know whether if she is alive or has met some ill fate.”
‘Let Morgan go’
Gil Harrington said her daughter normally wouldn’t try to get home from a big event on her own, but added: “Kids are impulsive, especially in that excitement. Perhaps she knew who she could get a ride with. We don’t know. We wish we did know.”
Her parents reported her missing the next day and local and state police along with the FBI have been conducting the search for the 5-foot-6, 120-pound blonde with blue eyes.
“She’s really very a sweet person, kind of an innocent individual who probably is quite trusting,” Dan Harrington told Robach. “She’s quite artistic, loves to read, and, really, over the last six months, Gil and Morgan and I had just a phenomenal relationship. She goes to school only 35 miles from here. We’ve been able to have daily contact with her. She’s a wonderful person.”
The Harringtons also have a 22-year-old son who told his mother that if Morgan were abducted, whoever took her would have no choice but to keep her alive.
“He said, ‘Morgan has a purpose in this world, and Morgan is so special that whoever took her is going to keep her around for a while,’ ” Gil Harrington told Robach. Then, addressing the presumed abductor, she added, “So please let Morgan go. No questions asked. Let her come home to us.”
Robach asked Gil Harrington what she would say to her daughter if Morgan was listening.
Signing her words in American Sign Language, the mother looked in the camera and said, “Morgan, we are trying to shine our heart to you as a beacon to come through wherever you are. Come back home.”
Boosted by the $50,000 pledge from Metallica, there is a $150,000 reward for information that helps find Morgan Harrington. Police ask anyone with information to call 434-352-3467.