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Who killed college student Morgan Harrington?

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
/ Source: TODAY contributor

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.