'One tip': Harringtons launch 'Next Girl' campaign
Approaching the second anniversary of their daughter's disappearance, the parents of murdered student Morgan Dana Harrington are unveiling a new campaign aiming to raise awareness about the vulnerability of young women to predators and to offer support to other victims' families.
Dubbed Helpsavethenextgirl.com, the multi-media campaign includes not only that website but also a Facebook page, and it launches with a series of bold online ads placed on media websites from Blacksburg to Northern Virginia aimed at sparking new leads in a case that appears to be running cold.
"Spit out Morgan Dana Harrington's killer," says one of the animated ads, featuring an airline "barf bag" bearing the composite image of a bearded black man linked by DNA to a 2005 rape in Fairfax and to Morgan's case.
Another features a photo of Morgan with the stark words: "20 years old. 5'5" tall. 6 feet under." And a third ad features images of a smiling Morgan followed by the grim composite sketch. "She was the girl next door," it reads. "Is this the guy next door?"
The ads are intended to be harsh, says Morgan's mother, Gil Harrington.
"Something ugly happened here, and I'm not going to sugar-coat it for him," she says, referring to the man she believes is responsible for killing her daughter. "From the beginning, I've tried to use clear words. I don't use 'her death,' I use 'her murder.' The softer words," she says, "give him a pass, and I'm not going to make nice about this."
As extensively reported in the Hook and other media, Morgan Harrington was last seen on the Copeley Road Bridge after leaving and then being denied re-entry to a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena on October 17, 2009. Her decomposing remains were found three months later neary 10 miles away on a remote corner of an Albemarle County farm. At this time, the best if not only lead is a DNA connection to a 2005 brutal sexual assault in Fairfax. That victim survived, perhaps because her assailant was scared away by a passerby, and was able to provide police with a description.
While Helpsavethenextgirl.com launches with Morgan's case, Gil Harrington says the goal is to have links to resources in all 50 states and to provide support including ad and video templates for other families who hope to quickly create a multi-media PR campaign to increase awareness in their own cases.
"To even know how to find a PR person is a lot to expect a regular person, even smart and educated," says Stephanie Koehler of SAKinterMedia, who, like everyone involved with creating the "Next Girl" campaign, donated her services.
Koehler says within 24 hours of the ads going live on Media General sites across Central Virginia, traffic to Helpsavethenextgirl skyrocketed, from just 23 visitors one day to 1,600 the next.
Gil Harrington hopes just one of those visitors will know something.
"It takes one tip," she says, "and maybe we'll get what we need."Read more on: Morgan Harrington