Posts tagged “Anchorage Farms

DNA Hit Links Harrington Homicide to Probable Serial Rapist

Last week, officials from the Virginia State Police (VSP) released information linking the slaying of 20-year-old college student Morgan Harrington to the 2005 sexual assault of women in Fairfax.  Nearly 100 miles separate the two crime scenes. 

Although VSP officials will not disclose the evidence linking the two cases, DNA analysis is the likely nexus. 

In the 2005 Fairfax incident, the victim was abducted by a black male while walking home from a grocery store at approximately one-in-the-morning. 

The modus operandi of the suspect may cause investigators to rethink the widely held belief that Morgan Harrington was abducted while hitchhiking on the Copeley Road Bridge.  A newspaper delivery person claims to have observed Morgan leaving an apartment building at 3:45 a.m. on October 18, only blocks from the location where her Pantera t-shirt was later located. Media reports suggest that investigators were initially skeptical of the newspaper delivery woman’s observations.

The DNA hit linking the Harrington investigation and the 2005 assault creates two scenarios: either the suspect is not a convicted felon or he has fallen through the cracks of the criminal justice system. Walter Ellis, Milwaukee’s alleged North Side Strangler, is an example of the latter.  While incarcerated, Ellis reportedly convinced a fellow inmate to supply a DNA sample. 

Having visited the area of the Harrington crime scene, the disposal site leads me to believe the suspect has knowledge of the area.  The 720-acre Anchorage Farms is somewhat isolated, although the suspect likely gained access to the property via an affluent subdivision, where homeowners would view any vehicular traffic suspiciously. 

This leads me to believe that the perpetrator is a somewhat educated risk taker. He probably scouts the area for a day or two before committing his crimes then waits for the right opportunity to present itself.

Moreover, I sincerely doubt these are the only two crimes this man has committed in nearly five years.  Psychological profiles of serial rapists and those convicted of sexual homicides typically involve crimes of fantasy and control.  After committing these crimes, the perpetrators go through a cooling-off period; however, their fantasies persist to the point where they strike again. 

From past experience, the good news is the release of the sketch is likely producing hundreds of tips.  Without a doubt, it will take time to sort through the reams of information generated by the public.  Nonetheless, let’s hope that the VSP hones-in on the perpetrator before another woman falls prey.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Route 29 Linkage?

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, June 6, 2010 — After leaving the Shenandoah National Park, the Spingola Files (SF) traveled to the college town of Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia. 

But before venturing into town, SF visited the periphery of Anchorage Farms, where David Bass, the owner of the 720 acre property discovered the body of Morgan Harrington in late January. 

The property of Anchorage Farms begins approximately 60 feet from the center late of Route 29.  The entrance to the property is gated, although, at the time we visited, this gate was pulled open.  I sincerely doubt that an individual, having just committed a homicide, would risk entering the dump site from this location.

That being said, the area of the farm where Morgan’s body was located is easily accessible from the Blandemar Estates subdivision.  Saying the Blandemar area is an atypical subdivision is an understatement.  This is very upscale development. By my estimation, the lots are five acre parcels.  In the area near Waldemar Drive, only two homes are visible, one of which is under construction and probably didn’t exist at the time of the murder.  Another large home sits at the intersection of Blandemar and Waldemar Drives; however, trees surrounding this residence might obstruct the view of its occupants.

I believe the Morgan’s killer probably parked his vehicle on Waldemar Drive — possibly in front of the home currently under construction — threw Morgan Harrington’s body over his shoulder and walked onto the Anchorage Farms property. 

Without a doubt, this is a case that reading the police reports would likely answer several questions, although I believe that the suspect is very familiar with the area.  Why drive ten miles and then pick this particular spot to dispose of a body?  Why not choose other areas that are more isolated and closer to the John Paul Jones Arena?  My guess is the suspect felt comfortable in the vicinity of Anchorage Farms and is likely aware that this particular sector of the property would not be checked for some period of time.

SF then visited Charlottesville proper.  On the Copeley Road bridge — at the spot where Morgan Harrington was observed hitching for a ride — a make-shift memorial stands just above a set of railroad tracks. Today, this area was home to the NCAA baseball regional.  Pedestrian and vehicular track was particularly heavy.  On the evening of the Metallica concert, my guess is many more people were present. 

Looking at other open investigations, the Morgan Harrington case has some similarities to the 1996 homicide of Alicia Showalter Reynolds, which was initiated on Virginia’s Route 29—a major arterial highway located only a few blocks from the Copeley Road bridge.  Showalter Reynolds’ credit card was located on Clay Street in Culpepper the day she was abducted.  Her parka was located on Route 626, although her body wasn’t discovered until May 17, 1996.  Harrington’s purse and cell phone were found in a parking lot near the UVA athletic fields shortly after her disappearance.  Her Pantera t-shirt was discarded and located two days later near the West Lawn apartments.  In both instances, the killer disposed of the property of the victims, almost as if he hoped they would be located.

Certainly, the method of operation originally developed by the Route 29 stalker (i.e. pulling alongside female motorist and encouraging them to stop due to car trouble) would no longer be effective.  The proliferation and use of cellular telephones would require the perpetrator to alter his MO.

NEXT: check back tomorrow as SF will post an update regarding the search for Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010