Pantera find: Shirt on 15th Street was Morgan Harrington's
Six months into the Morgan Harrington murder case, police have dropped a bombshell: Forensic testing has concluded that the black Pantera t-shirt found on a bush outside an apartment building at the corner of 15th Street and Grady Avenue belonged to Harrington and is the one she was reportedly wearing when she disappeared after attending an October 17 Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena. The news is the first major development in the case to be made public since the discovery of Harrington's body on January 26 on a 740-acre farm in southern Albemarle County, and it comes as a shock to those who live in the 21-unit building where the shirt was found.
"Good God!" exclaimed Blaine Eichner, the UVA student who discovered the shirt back in mid-November as he was returning home from class.
When he was first interviewed by the Hook in late January, Eichner expressed doubt that the shirt–- which he said appeared to have faces of the Pantera band members along with beige letters–- could have belonged to Harrington.
“I feel like, if it really had something to do with the case, it wouldn’t have been thrown on a bush,” he said at the time, suggesting it could also be a "crazy person who just wants attention."
Eichner says the shirt was spread flat and facing up on the bushes about six feet from the 15th Street and within reach of the road's gravel shoulder. He says he didn't see it on his way to class that morning, but he doesn't believe that the shirt could have gone unnoticed for long as he and other students walk past by the bush numerous times each day on their way to and from class. "There's no way," he says, expressing his belief that the shirt was placed there deliberately and well after Harrington's disappearance.
Learning that it is, in fact, Harrington's shirt–- which he discovered on November 11, a full three weeks after her disappearance–- is "scary," he says, "the closeness of it."
Another person surprised by the revelation is Norma Parson, a newspaper deliverywoman who has long claimed that she saw Harrington–- or an amazing lookalike–- leaving a room on the West Lawn sometime around 3am on the night of the Metallica show. Parson says she still stands by her story, and hopes that the discovery of the shirt will help solve the case for the family's sake.
"I've been hoping and praying for the Harringtons," says Parson.
According to Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller, the forensic testing on the shirt wasn't complete until the last few weeks–- law enforcement did not know the results in January, when the shirt was first publicly reported, she says–-and police are not releasing any details on the condition of the shirt. Police are still waiting on forensic testing results from Morgan's remains and Anchorage Farm, Geller says, and the Medical Examiner hasn't yet released a cause or time of Morgan's death, which has been ruled a homicide.
The presence of Harrington's shirt a mile and a half from the last place she was seen alive and 10 miles from where her body was discovered seems to pose more questions than it answers. According to the police press release, investigators have followed up on 1,000 tips, conducted more than 100 interviews, and have made "substantial progress in evaluating countless possibilities and scenarios" relating to Harrington's disappearance and death.
In spite of that progress, investigators continue to urge the public to come forward with "factual details" rather than "theoretical abstracts."
"It's going to take that one courageous phone call to Crime Stoppers from someone who knows something firsthand about this case," says Lt. Joe Rader in the release.
Tips can be called in the Jefferson Area Crimestoppers at 434-977-4000, to the Virginia State Police Tip Line at 434-352-3467, or emailed to State Police at email@example.com. The $150,000 reward is still available.
Updated 10:04pm with information about the timing of forensic test results.
Updated 9:51am Tuesday, April 20 with a more detailed description of the shirt's location and position on the bush and a new photo to replace the snowy one from February.