Virginia State Police say skeletal remains have been found on Anchorage Farm on Route 29 in southern Albemarle County. Early reports indicate the remains are that of a young woman with long blond hair. She was wearing dark clothing and a bracelet.
Property owner David Bass found the remains. Bass says, "I saw what I thought was a dead deer. I got a little bit closer and it didn't look like a deer skull."
Bass was riding on his tractor about 8:30 Tuesday morning when he made the discovery. Bass is baffled about the remains ended up in a remote part of his farm.
Bass says, "It's an inaccessible place. I couldn't get my pickup there. My tractor, my four wheel driver, I guess."
Dozens of police officers spent much of the day going to and from the large hill near Red Hill. Vans and trucks labeled "Forensic Unit" with both Albemarle and State Police took to the winding road, over the hill, leading to the scene.
A State Police helicopter took to the air, searching for potential clues from the sky. The lead investigator on the Morgan Harrington case, Lieutenant Joe Rader, arrived on the scene just after 12:30 p.m.
Melissa Byrd, a friend of the Harrington family enroute to Richmond, stopped along the road. Byrd says, "She just touched so many people, the description of her, her personality. It's just so sad and scary."
Byrd says after she heard the news that remains had been found, she was compelled to pay her respects. "The same thing that has me following her Facebook and the blogs every single day since she disappeared. It's very compelling and tragic."
Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford was also on the scene to inspect the area for herself and to make sure that detectives working the scene are thorough.
Reported By NBC29 HD News
STATE POLICE INVESTIGATING SKELETAL REMAINS DISCOVERED
IN ALBEMARLE COUNTY
Investigators Confident Remains are of Missing VT Student
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – State and local law enforcement are investigating the discovery of skeletal remains in Albemarle County in connection with the ongoing search and investigation for missing Virginia Tech student, Morgan Dana Harrington, 20, of Roanoke, Va.
At 9:53 Tuesday morning (January 26, 2010) an Albemarle County resident notified Virginia State Police of a discovery he made in one of the fields on his 700-acre farm in the southern part of the county. While operating a tractor, he came across skeletal remains in a remote section of a hayfield. There is no public access to this particular area. The hayfield was last cut in August 2009 and would have been possibly waist-high by mid October 2009.
State police immediately dispatched investigators and crime scene technicians to the scene to evaluate and process the findings. With the assistance of Albemarle County Police, Charlottesville Police, and University of Virginia Police, investigators have been on the scene all day Tuesday gathering and analyzing evidence. The scene will remain secured by Virginia State Police overnight for investigators to return Wednesday for additional investigation.
Based on evidence recovered at the scene, investigators are fairly confident at this time that the remains are those of Morgan Dana Harrington - the 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who went missing from the University of Virginia campus during a Metallica concert on the night of October 17, 2009. The remains are being transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond for positive identification and autopsy.
"Not until we receive word from the medical examiner can we say we are 100-percent certain that this is Miss Harrington," said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent, at a Tuesday evening press conference in Charlottesville. "However, based on evidence recovered with the remains, we are confident that scientific testing will confirm her identification."
Investigators are now working to determine how the remains came to be in this particular location, cause and time of death, and identifying who was responsible for the remains being there.
State Police still ask for the public to come forward and provide any information they may have related to the case of Morgan Harrington, especially now with this new lead. With over 600 tips received to-date, state and local police thank the public for coming forward and providing details that helped establish the timeline that night of Miss Harrington's movements after she was outside John Paul Jones Arena. Those with information and tips are encouraged to call Virginia State Police at 434-352-3467 or UVA Police at 434-924-7166 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I want to acknowledge and thank the law-enforcement agencies for their steadfast support and contributions to the search and investigation into the Morgan Harrington case," said Colonel Flaherty. "We also want to thank Dr. and Mrs. Harrington for persevering through three months of the unimaginable."