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Published:June 14th, 2012 08:06 EST
In Morgan Harrington`s Case, Can We Rely on the Composite Sketch of Suspect?

In Morgan Harrington`s Case, Can We Rely on the Composite Sketch of Suspect?

By John G. Kays


 A social media campaign launched yesterday by the FBI to increase the chances of finding Morgan Harrington`s killer is impressive. And as you probably already are aware of, James Hetfield, the lead guitarist for the band Metallica, lends a helping hand with a PSA video that promotes the FBI`s efforts. Morgan Harrington`s case has baffled the authorities and a news hungry public ever since the perplexing drama played out, on October 17, 2009. 


Three and a half years later, the mystery endures. This new, stronger FBI campaign will certainly help, but people will need to be flexible when considering what they have, and in ways they can get this information out to to those who actually know this man, who committed at least two crimes we know of. My skepticism partially re-emerges as a result of the composite sketch, which has been around for nearly two years.


I needed to review the evidence (after yesterday`s renewed interest) of what happened to Morgan at the Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena, which is located at the University of Virginia. Not much about that night makes very good sense. A few examples I`ll give you are: Why did Morgan leave the Arena right in the middle of the show? Why, or better, how did her purse and cell phone get left in the parking lot of the arena?


How did she get the facial scratches? Did she take any drugs that night which might explain her erratic behavior? The FBI has several photos of the Copeley Road railroad bridge, which is the last spot where Morgan Harrington was seen walking (9:30 PM on 10/17/`09). I do recall the ID special has a reenactment of students driving over the Copeley bridge, and seeing a blonde-haired girl walking away from the concert with several boys.


But there are lots of other problems with what eyewitnesses saw that night. This is the same problem I am having with the police sketch. The source of the sketch is the woman who was raped in Fairfax, Va. in 2005, as she walked to her apartment. 


The Washington Post published an article on July 2, 2010 (linked below) when they first came up with the sketch, and when they linked the perpetrator`s DNA to both the Fairfax rape victim and to Morgan, whose remains were found in a remote field of an Albemarle County farm.


I`m not linking an image of the sketch, since I`m not convinced of it`s accuracy. Somebody knows this man, but I don`t believe they recognize him from this sketch. Therefore, they have rationalized to themselves their suspected person must not be the man who did this.


I`m convinced the acquaintance to the perpetrator strongly suspects he`s the one, but out of fear, or out of blind rationalization, or because of inaccuracies in the sketch, he or she turns a blind eye to turning him in.  


I applaud these reinvigorated efforts of the FBI and a reignited and persevering press, who want more than ever to bring closure to Morgan Harrington`s confounding case. What I would say, however, is try to reinvent the wheel. Don`t look at the clues in the same stale way; go in a different direction and reshape your interpretations of what may have happened. Especially the composite sketch! Relatives or friends of our man, does he look much different from this? 


FBI " Help Us Catch a Killer


DNA links Fairfax assault, Virginia Tech student`s slaying, police say