It was the picture of Jesse Matthew that made the father of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington do a double-take.
It was uncanny how much the suspect in the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham resembled the police sketch of the man wanted in connection with the kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in Fairfax, Viriginia, in 2005. Police also linked that suspect to Harrington’s case.
Could it be the same man? Could it be the man behind the 2009 killing of their 20-year-old daughter, Morgan Harrington?
“I told Gil this person might have been involved in Morgan’s murder,” Dan Harrington told Anderson Cooper Tuesday on CNN’s “AC360.”
Harrington’s comments came a day after Virginia State Police said there was a “new forensic link” between the Graham and Harrington cases. On Tuesday, a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity told CNN that DNA evidence links Matthew to the death of Harrington.
Almost from the beginning, after news of Graham’s disappearance, Harrington’s parents were struck by the similarities between the two cases.
“Both Hannah’s going missing and Morgan’s abduction happened about the same time of year,” Gil Harrington said. It also happened about the same time of night, and with some of the same circumstances, she said.
Harrington went missing after attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville in October 2009. Her remains, including splintered bones, were found on a farm on the outskirts of the city in late January 2010.
The last major development in the Harrington case came in 2010, when her slaying was connected to the kidnapping and sexual assault of another woman in Fairfax in 2005.
That woman was able to provide police with enough of a description to make a sketch. Police at the time did not identify the woman who provided the description and said only that “forensic evidence” linked the two cases.
It’s that sketch and its similarity to Matthew that is the closest thing the Harrington family says they have to an answer as to who possibly was responsible for killing their daughter.
“You don’t get over it,” Gil Harrington said. “But I do believe you get past it,” and you can work to help others, she said.
The priority right now, she said, is finding Graham.
Graham was last seen September 13 in an area of Charlottesville known as the Downtown Mall. Police have asked owners of large parcels of property in surrounding counties to search their land and report back.
Investigators believe Matthew was the last person with Graham. He has been charged with abduction with the intent to defile in the case, and he is being held in jail in isolation, according to Charlottesville police.
Police investigators have not publicly connected the dots except to say that the arrest of Matthew has given them a break in Harrington’s case.
Dan Harrington has a message for the man he believes killed his daughter: “I would like to say how could you take another person’s life? How could you possibly be so awful to abduct someone and kill them? … It’s beyond understanding.”