Morgan Harrington Murder: Where is Jesse Matthew Jr. Now?

Image Credit: Dream Weaver/Find a Grave

In the episode titled ‘Heavy Metal Mystery’ of Investigation Discovery’s ‘Disappeared,’ we get an in-depth look at the abduction and murder case of Morgan Harrington. When she disappeared during a concert in 2009 and did not make it back to her friends, the police were informed about the 20-year-old woman’s disappearance. A few days later, detectives came across her remains and launched a murder investigation, leaving her family and friends shocked and heartbroken upon hearing the news. The episode delves deeper into the case with the help of interviews with people related to Morgan or involved in her case.

Morgan Harrington’s Was Missing For Three Months

Morgan Dana Harrington came into the life of her parents — Dan and Gil Harrington — as a bundle of joy, on July 24, 1989, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Accompanied by her older brother Alex, she seemingly grew up in a loving household. Lighting up any room she walked into with her beautiful, bubbly, and vibrant personality, she was loved immensely by her family members, friends, and the entire community. She even stood up for the things she believed in and emphasized children’s rights while she prepared for a career in the field of Education, studying in Virginia Tech AKA the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Image Credit: Helen McLean/Find a Grave

Being an avid music fan, Morgan could not let the opportunity pass when Metallica was scheduled to perform at the John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. She thus got tickets and was extremely excited and happy to be able to see this legendary band live. Little did she know that one of the happiest days would turn into her last. On October 17, 2009, during the concert, the 20-year-old was separated from her friends and they soon found themselves concerned about her whereabouts and well-being.

Morgan was hence reported missing not long thereafter and the police launched an extensive search for this bright Virginia Tech student. More than three months after her disappearance, on January 26, 2010, her remains were found on a remote farm in Albemarle County, Virginia. Reports could not accurately determine the cause of her demise, but it was ascertained that “she had a spiral fracture of her upper left arm and 2 greenstick rib fractures.” Even her skull had an incise fracture on it that was inflicted at or near the time of her death. The authorities then launched an investigation to search for the killer/s responsible for her seemingly brutal murder.

Prime Suspect in the Hannah Graham Case Was Responsible For Morgan Harrington’s Death

On the day of the concert, on October 17, 2009, Morgan had traveled to the arena at the University of Virginia along with three friends. And it was there, during the opening act that she told them she had to go to the restroom, only to never return. Her friends did call her at 8:48 pm and she told them she’d been locked out due to the establishment’s “no re-entry” policy, adding she’d find a way home. She was subsequently seen by some witnesses in the area around 9:30 pm, hitchhiking on a nearby bridge. After she vanished, several of her possessions, including her purse and cell phone without the batteries, were found in the RV lot at UVA’s Lannigan Athletic Field.

Several weeks and months passed without any development in the case until a farmer discovered Morgan’s remains in a remote area of the 742-acre Anchorage Farm on January 26, 2010. While the details of her death were initially kept private, her mother Gil revealed that she’d been raped before getting killed. There was also a t-shirt that had been recovered from outside an apartment building about a mile-and-a-half from the John Paul Jones Arena in November 2009, which was determined to be the one Morgan was wearing on the fateful night. Upon inspecting all possible evidence, officials discovered a forensic link to Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., who was already the prime suspect in Hannah Graham’s September 2005 murder in Fairfax.

It was reported that Jesse had been driving a taxicab in Charlottesville on the night Morgan disappeared. Finally, after six long years, on September 15, 2015, he was arrested and charged with both first-degree murder as well as abduction in connection to the death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington in October 2009. Originally, the trial date was set for October 17, 2016, but since it was the anniversary of Morgan’s disappearance, it was shifted to a week later out of respect, to October 24, 2016. But alas, it wasn’t needed.

Jesse Matthew Jr. Is Now Serving Multiple Life Sentences

Before Jesse Matthew Jr.’s trial could commence, on March 2, 2016, he pleaded guilty to the abduction and murder of both Morgan Harrington as well as Hannah Graham. As part of this plea deal, prosecutors withdrew a capital murder charge and he gave up any right to appeal before being sentenced to four consecutive life terms without any possibility of parole. Following this decision, Morgan’s mother Gil told NBC affiliate WVIR that they had known in their hearts that Jesse was involved in the murder of her daughter. Meanwhile, Dan Harrington, Morgan’s father, stated, “I want him to know that we are present and we have been present for six years and we will be present for the months to come. He needs to know that justice is coming.”

Gil Harrington also showed her gratitude towards the investigators who did not give up and kept searching for the truth throughout the six years. She said, “For 6½ years, you all were determined and resolute to find the top-tier predator that hunted in this community. That process has been successfully completed today. Your dedicated efforts were incredibly helpful and sustaining for us personally. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I know it takes one to bury a child.”

On May 21, 2019, reports emerged about Jesse being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, after which he was transported from the Red Onion State Prison in Virginia’s Wise County to Sussex I State Prison in Waverly to start treatment. The families of Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham were informed about this transfer. In December 2020, this convict was then moved to a Richmond hospital, but it appears as if he is now back at the super-maximum security Red Onion State Prison. Moreover, in July 2021, it was alleged that Jesse had sexually assaulted a then-15-year-old girl while studying at Liberty University back in 2000, yet there have been no criminal proceedings against him regarding this matter until now.

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