Someone abducted and murdered her 20-year-old daughter, police believe, but Gil Harrington doesn’t really care about punishing the perpetrator. She just wants a killer taken off the streets before he can cause another parent the pain she has felt.
“I am concerned and determined that he be caught for safety reasons, because this was not the first bad thing that this man did. Abduction and murder is not your entry level into a life of crime,” Harrington told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Friday via satellite from her home in Roanoke, Va. “He’s done bad things before. He’s upped his game, and he’s likely to do something bad again unless we catch him.”
‘Horrific three months’
Gil and her husband, Dan Harrington, were speaking out three days after the skeletal remains of their daughter, Morgan, were discovered in a pasture some 10 miles from Charlottesville, Va. Three months earlier, on Oct. 17, 2009, Morgan had gone to Charlottesville with friends to attend a Metallica concert.
Somehow, she got separated from the rest of her group and found herself outside the arena during the concert without her ticket or car keys. Unable to get back in, she called her friends and told them not to worry about her; she’d find her own way home.
When Morgan did not return home by the next morning, her parents called police. But in three months of investigation, the best they could do is put a hitchhiker meeting Morgan Harrington’s description on a bridge seven miles from where her body was finally found.
“This has been a horrific three months,” Dan Harrington said. “This is not the end that we wanted, but closure is really important. There is some peace, but we’re very sad. Obviously, we would like our daughter to be alive.”
‘Lovely bones, lovely girl’
For Gil Harrington, the discovery means an end to the waking nightmares she had lived with, imagining that her daughter might be alive and suffering unspeakable horror at the hands of her abductor. Police believe now that Morgan Harrington died not long after she went missing.
The Harringtons were able to view the remains, which Gil described as “lovely bones” — a reference to the best-selling book by Alice Sebold about a murdered 14-year-old girl. The book has been made into a movie.
“I have reviewed images of my daughter from her prenatal ultrasounds to looking at her empty eye sockets of her cranium,” Gil said calmly. “Yes, I have seen lovely bones. Lovely girl.”
Killer at large
The pasture where the body was found is in a remote part of a farm that is not easy to get to by car. The location makes the Harringtons believe that someone local who was familiar with the area committed the crime. And that person is still at large.
“Dan wants justice and punishment of this man. I really care little about either one of those things. I know he will receive the punishment that he is due, at some point. I am concerned and determined that he be caught for safety reasons,” added Gil. Video: Missing coed’s parents: our ‘worst nightmare’
The Harringtons were uncommonly close to their daughter, who had spent the day leading up to the concert with her mother deciding what to wear and what makeup to use. The next day, the college student had planned to study math with her father.
Finding meaning in tragedy
When Morgan went missing, her parents discovered that while there are great resources to support the families of missing children in this country, there is almost nothing to help the families of missing adults. The only resource is the National Center for Missing Adults, which lost its federal funding in 2007, Dan Harrington said.
“We are a prime example of the pain and the difficulty that families have after someone goes missing. There’s no template,” he told Vieira. “Law enforcement, communities, parents don’t know what to do.”
“We no longer have a missing daughter, but we want Morgan’s life to be honored and we want her death to not be just another person dying,” Dan Harrington told Vieira. “We want something good to happen for Morgan’s life.”
If you have information for police about what happened to Morgan Harrington, please call 434-352-3467.
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints