Surviving the 'Murdered Child's Club'

Story highlights

  • Gil and Dan Harrington lost their daughter Morgan five years ago Friday
  • The couple founded "Help Save the Next Girl" to teach women how to avoid victimization
  • The suspect charged in the Hannah Graham case may be tied to Morgan's death
  • The Harringtons can be funny and irreverent; they see it as a sign of healing

Roanoke, Virginia (Special to CNN)On this day five years ago, Dan and Gil Harrington became members of a club they never wanted to join and one they can never quit.

The dues are more than steep. They are crushing. And yet, membership in this club grows.
The Harringtons belong to the Murdered Child's Club.
    That's how they describe it, anyway. Their membership began October 17, 2009, when their daughter, Morgan Dana Harrington, went missing in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was attending a rock concert on the University of Virginia campus.
    One-hundred-and-one excruciating days later, the 20-year-old's skeletal remains were discovered 10 miles from the concert arena, on a hillside of a sprawling farm in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her death was ruled a homicide.
    With each passing year, the Harringtons have had to work harder and harder to stay connected to their daughter. They keep her cell number active so they can call it and hear her voice mail message. They also have been mindful to keep grief from becoming their undoing, both as individuals and as a couple.
    ON Friday, the Harringtons mark the fifth anniversary of their daughter's murder the same way they have marked four others — with a ceremony on Charlottesville's Copeley Road Bridge, the last place witnesses reported seeing Morgan alive. The family has used these annual milestones to try to generate new information on who may have killed Morgan and to warn young women in Charlottesville to be vigilant.
    This anniversary brings with it new hope that Morgan's case will be solved.
    Ironically, and many fear tragically, the disappearance almost five weeks ago of another young woman, University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, has offered the most promising lead yet. On September 24, a patient technician at the University of Virginia Medical Center was charged with abducting Graham with an intent to defile. Police say DNA now links that man, Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, to Morgan's death. No charges in that case have been filed. In a statement, Matthew's lawyer, James L. Camblos III, said he has "not been provided with any evidence that links (Matthew) to either" the Graham or Harrington cases.
    Although the developments may turn out to be the break the Harringtons have longed for, it is not one they are celebrating. "Our feeling is not joy," Morgan's mother says. "There is another missing girl,