NBC29 Exclusive: Joe Rader Speaks Out on Harrington Case Letter
A retired Virginia State Police lieutenant is urging the person he believes has information in the Morgan Harrington case to clear their conscience and come forward.
In a story you'll only see on NBC29, former Virginia State Police Lieutenant Joe Rader speaks about the letter he issued Tuesday (see below), written directly to the person he feels holds the key piece of information that will lead police to Harrington's killer.
Wednesday, Rader sat down exclusively with NBC29's Laura French and talked about the letter, his message and his prediction on this case.
On October 17, 2009, 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington left a Metallica concert at the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. On January 26, 2010, her body was found on an Albemarle County farm, turning a missing persons case into a homicide investigation. Virginia State Police Lieutenant Joe Rader was overseeing the case and was determined to solve it.
Rader has since retired from the Virginia State Police. He says while his title has changed, his determination has not. Rader says he may not wear a badge anymore but as a human being, a father, a brother and a citizen, he has a civic responsibility to finally get this off his chest.
"I have a conscience as well. I have a conscience that you have to do the right thing even if it's going to cause some friction," he stated. "I feel a sense of need, something that needed to be done from a person not wearing a badge anymore because I believe when you are wearing a badge you do have to be careful for obvious reasons, but the fact that you are not wearing a badge does not absolve you from society."
So a year after retirement, Rader said the time was right to finally get this message off his chest. Rader chose to release a letter concerning the unsolved murder of Morgan Harrington. Despite reports, the letter is not addressed to Morgan's killer; it is addressed to "the person with information on Morgan Harrington's death" or as Rader put it, "you."
"Who's 'you?' I think it's the person who is responsible, who has information - not necessarily the person or persons who committed the crime," Rader stated.
Referring to the person the letter was addressed to, Rader said, "If you are the person who has information that would lead to getting to the truth of what happened in October of 2009, you are the only one who can come forward with that truth. "
Rader also said, "You have to clear your conscience, you have to come forward and call the police. And I think you need to trust the police and whoever else who supports you that it will be okay."
In the letter, Rader begs "you", as he repeatedly writes in all caps, to "do the right thing."
"You'll never be the same person if you have information and you can't tell it so my point was tell the information so you can get your life back as well," he stated. "The police can't perform miracles all the time, they have to have help."
Rader says the police had nothing to do with the letter. This was personal for him, and it had been bothering him for months that - as he says - certain people get free passes on having information and not coming forward.
Rader says he's confident his former colleagues will solve this case. He went on to say that the person he's addressing may have already talked to investigators, but it's time he or she stop telling half-truths and come full circle - no more "little lies."
He also says as a citizen he does not want to become a victim or a victim's family.
Through a broken voice, Morgan's father, Dan Harrington, tells us he is both shocked and appreciative for Rader's efforts.
An Open Letter to The Person with Information on Morgan Harrington's Death:
You know my face and voice because you have closely followed the case. Now, I no longer speak as a COP or for the state police, but as a father, husband, brother, friend to others and person of faith. I retired from law enforcement and the case, but their hard work continues every day. I have not run away from wanting to help find the TRUTH of what happened that chilly October night at JPJA and the bridge in Charlottesville, VA. Some people evaluated every word I said in press conferences as some sort of secret coded messages, but that was never the case.
So there is no confusion for you, I will be very blunt- YOU are not the same person you were in October 2009, because you hold the TRUTH of what happened to Morgan that October night and it has consumed your conscience every day. You see, you have important information from that night! It is time for YOU to DO THE RIGHT THING and free the burden of your conscience with the information you have. It is time for YOU to stand up in the name of humanity and justice. It is time for YOU to show that you have a sympathetic and dignified place in your heart so heavily troubled, regardless of your involvement in the circumstances leading to Morgan's death.
Money has not brought you forward, but I understand it. No amount of money can clear a conscience that hides the truth. So what has held you back from making that call? Maybe you talked to law-enforcement and they missed your message. It can happen, so pick up the phone and call the VSP, AMW, FBI, or Crime Stoppers tip line. You have no excuses of lack of options to call! Is it embarrassment, fear, stigma, or skepticism that your information might point the finger at you? YOU have the TRUTH that will lead to solving the case, and that information will set your conscience free and bring peace to a family. The facts you have can be verified, but you must be totally honest. Half-truths are no more than little lies and will not relieve your heavy burden. It is time for YOU to come full circle and DO THE RIGHT THING!
How have YOU faced your children, friends, siblings or parents these past couple of years? I bet YOU have imagined the pain of losing one of them to a death that was senseless! I bet YOU would fight every battle to bring them back or at least find the TRUTH and the person responsible. YOU would accept nothing less than for people to fight for your cause if you had suffered the same tragedy. I know YOU have a conscience because you consider these things and it makes you nauseated! What have you seen when you look in the mirror? That has to be an image that causes you shame because you have the answers and know YOU must DO THE RIGHT THING.
So, there is no option to free you of this burden except to make the call now. One day, we all will face the judgment of who we believe is our Creator. At that time, there is no second chance to clear your conscience because you failed to DO THE RIGHT THING. Maybe you are not religious, but I wonder if you have sought forgiveness from a Higher Authority. If so, I am certain you haven't found that peace because you have yet to DO THE RIGHT THING! Call the tip lines or Crime Stoppers with the information that you know will bring this case to a conclusion. Call someone that you feel comfortable will talk to you and the police to understand what happened that night with Morgan Harrington! Do THE RIGHT THING now!
Retired Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation
Update (11/16/12): New tips that could solve the Morgan Harrington murder case have been rolling into Virginia State Police.