Black ribbon: Harrington's parents express emotions
“Our sorrow is etched in our faces; our pain has been carved in our hearts." So said the mother of Morgan Dana Harrington, a day after her 20-year-old daughter's body was found in a cowfield south of Charlottesville.
"I can tell you, having seen them," continued Gil Harrington, "that girl even had some lovely bones."
The attractiveness of the blonde, blue-eyed victim and the sudden, heart-breaking mystery following her unexplained departure from a long-anticipated concert combined to make the case a top national news story.
At the emotional January 27 press conference for approximately 30 journalists, the family–- including the victim's silently grieving brother, Alex–- tied a black ribbon to a pole on the Copeley Road bridge, the last place where the Virginia Tech education major was positively spotted after leaving the October 17 Metallica concert at nearby John Paul Jones Arena.
Clad only in a t-shirt, tights, skirt, and knee-high boots on a misty 42-degree night–- she was, police believe, trying to hitch a ride on the bridge.
On that same bridge Wednesday, her father expressed interest in erecting there a permanent monument as a safety reminder, and he said he will lobby for federal funding to find missing adults, for which there currently is none. He also reiterated his long-held belief that the attacker was a local.
Meanwhile, nine miles south of the Arena, police were conducting a "shoulder to shoulder" search of the field in which her body was found, according to Dave Bass, the owner of Anchorage Farm and the man who found Harrington's remains.
In response to a question from a reporter, Bass said that in 30 years of owning the property, he's never had a problem with trespassers and explained that the front gate along busy Route 29 is rarely closed.
"The gates are to keep the cows in–- not to keep people out," says Bass. "This is not Glenmore."
He says there are two houses on his 742-acre farm, a newer one toward the back of the property in which he and his artist wife dwell, and the landmark historic farmhouse which was long rented to UVA graduate students but now occupied by a member of his family.
Except for the main driveway which runs past the houses, Bass noted that his property is surrounded by barbed wire, and the field in which he found the remains of the 120-pound woman would be accessible only by foot or four-wheel-drive vehicles.
A night earlier, police indicated at their own press conference that they have long treated the case as a homicide and remain eager for tips from the public. Morgan's body, her parents said Wednesday, will not be released by law enforcement until next week, so no funeral has yet been planned.
As traumatic as learning that she had died was, said mother Gil Harrington, the trauma of not knowing was worse.
"It's better to know than to be filling in the blanks on your own," said the mother. "For the first time in 101 days, I'm not thinking, 'What is he doing to my daughter? What is she having to endure?"
Afterwards, Gil Harrington paused to personally greet many of the journalists and to straighten up some of the makeshift memorials clustered along the bridge.
"Morgan was well loved every day of her life," said her mother, "except the last one."
Authorities urge anyone with information to call Virginia State Police at 434-352-3467 or UVA Police at 434-924-7166 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.