Harrington & Yeardley: Connected by location, outrage
Just three weeks after the father of murder victim Morgan Harrington spoke publicly of the need for safety in Charlottesville, UVA women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love, another young woman with a promising future, is dead from what appears to be a homicide.
"I am so sick about this," says Morgan's mother, Gil Harrington. "It's devastating."
Morgan Harrington disappeared from outside a Metallica concert at UVA's John Paul Jones Arena on October 17, and her remains were discovered January 26 on a remote area of a 740-acre farm in southern Albemarle County. No arrests have been made, and the Harringtons have repeatedly warned of what they believe to be a continued menace to women in Charlottesville.
"A killer walks among you," Gil Harrington has said.
While the State Police spokesperson discounts the likelihood of any connection between the Yeardley and Harrington cases, there are at least three similarities:
• there were crushing injuries in both cases,
• Morgan's shirt was found at the corner of 15th Street and Grady Avenue, about three blocks from Love's apartment, and
• there was a lacrosse connection (as a group of UVA men's lacrosse players reportedly discovered Morgan's purse on their way to practice the morning following her disappearance).
Gil Harrington doesn't believe the cases are connected, but she does think there's significance to the location of the shirt.
"These things don't occur in a vacuum," says Harrington. "You need to connect the dots and figure out what is enabling these things to happen in your community. Why here, why now?"
Harrington isn't the only person speaking out against what she sees as a culture that somehow condones violence in and around the University of Virginia.
"This is yet another sad chapter in the book of my beloved alma mater as we see another beautiful life taken by violence," says Liz Seccuro, who was sexually assaulted in a UVA fraternity house in 1984 and whose assailant, William N. Beebe, pleaded guilty more than two decades later after he admitted to the crime in a letter of apology. Seccuro has long maintained that the university–- which reserves its single-sanction Honor Code for lying, cheating, and stealing–- fails to support victims of sexual crimes.
Susan Russell shares her discomfort. The founder of the uvavictimsofrape.com website that she launched after her daughter's alleged 2004 rape at the school says she was disturbed by the statement offered by UVA president John Casteen announcing Love's death in which he expresses "anger on reading that the investigators believe that another student caused it."
"Where has he been all these years?" asks Russell. "As the mother of a victim on his campus, it strikes me that he's living in some kind of bubble and doesn't believe that students harm other students."
In 2004, after the Hook published an article titled "How UVA Turns its Back on Rape," nearly 500 students donned gags in protest of the school's policies toward victims of sexual assault. In response, UVA rewrote its sexual assault policies aiming to provide more support to victims. Seccuro and Russell, however, say it's not nearly enough.
"The time has come for UVA's administration to seriously address this pandemic," says Seccuro, "and not bury the public with the idea that 'policies are being reviewed."
UVA spokesperson Carol Wood did not return the Hook's call for comment by presstime. But in this case, the charges have moved far beyond the hallowed halls of the University–- and into the Charlottesville criminal justice system.