Police in Charlottesville, Virginia, said on Tuesday that they believe the skeletal remains found on a Virginia farm could be those of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who went missing on October 17 after attending a Metallica concert in the area.
According to The Associated Press, state Police Superintendent Steve Flaherty ordered an autopsy on the remains to confirm that they are those of Harrington, a Roanoke native who got separated from her friends after leaving the metal show and being denied re-entry to the venue. "We can't say with 100 percent certainty, however, there were significant items and evidence," Flaherty told reporters of what lead authorities to conclude the remains were Harrington's. Investigators would not say what the items were and did not speculate on what might have caused the college student's death. Autopsy results were expected on Wednesday.
The remains were found in a remote location on Tuesday morning by farmer David Bass while surveying his 700-acre property, which is about 10 miles from the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, where the Metallica concert took place. Flaherty said officials had not searched the farm before because there was no evidence that would have led them to it.
Harrington was last seen wearing a black Pantera T-shirt, a black mini-skirt, black tights and black knee-high boots. Her purse and cell phone were found by a passerby in a small parking lot between the arena and an athletic field.
After she was reported missing, hundreds of volunteers and police searched the surrounding area and officials received hundreds of tips. More than $150,000 in rewards were offered for information on her whereabouts, including $50,000 contributed by Metallica. Billboards and posters with her picture went up all around Virginia, and her family created a Web site to help in the search.
Once the remains are identified, police will likely begin a homicide investigation, which could lead to more information on how Harrington ended up in the field.
Virginia Tech President Charles Steger released an open letter about the incident on Tuesday. "For more than three months, the entire Virginia Tech community, along with thousands upon thousands around the world, has held out hope for the safe return of Morgan Harrington," he said. "Sadly, today's news from Albemarle County has put an end to that hope, and once again, we find our strength and resilience tested in the face of profound grief and loss."