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Parents of Slain Student Remind Predator Remains At-Large

Mother of missing woman finds comfort, purpose in Harrington campaign.

More than two years after Morgan Harrington's body was found on a farm southwest of Charlottesville, her parents continue the search for her killer.

On Saturday, Dan and Gil Harrington, with a group of volunteers, set up a booth and passed out flyers outside of in Fairfax City, reminding grocery shoppers that Morgan's predator is still at-large.

One local woman stopped to talk to Help Save the Next Girl volunteers, recounting a night more than six years ago when she heard screaming on Jermantown Road. 

That night in September 2005, a 26-year-old woman was walking along the street carrying two full grocery bags. At approximately 10 p.m., a . Concerned neighbors who heard the woman's screams called police, likely saving her life.

"She was visibly distraught, trembling, stricken by the reminder," said Gil Harrington, describing the woman who recounted the attack to Help Save the Next Girl volunteers. "She remembered those screams."

After the September 2005 incident, police released a description and sketch of the Jermantown Road attacker, but he has not been apprehended. DNA evidence links the same predator to Morgan Harrington's

"Humans are creatures of habit. When I go grocery shopping, I park in the same parking spot." Harrington said. "This guy has a habit and pattern of abducting young women. Is he floating around where I live? Well, it's likely."

The Harringtons started Help Save the Next Girl in October 2011, exactly two years after Morgan, a Virginia Tech student, was abducted from a Metallica concert in Charlottesville. Their search campaign led them to Kim Nelson, whose pregnant daughter .

"I felt an immediate understanding and bonding with [Kim]," Gil Harrington said after meeting Nelson at the outreach event. "We have a lot in common. We're both nurses and our way of responding is wanting to fix it. We attack a problem by attacking it, not by being paralyzed."

Though police haven't connected the Harrington and Decker cases, Nelson traveled to Fairfax City to and seek out advice in dealing with her own daughter's disappearance.

"I never imagine there'd be a day my daughter would be missing or that I'd be on CNN talking about it," Nelson said. "[Dan and Gil] are helping me realize that I'm the one who has to keep contacting the police, reminding them that, hey, it's Bethany's birthday, or that I have to think of how to get the information out there."

Nelson described the disbelief she felt the first few months after her daughter went missing. She stumbled across a set of fingerprints police had taken at a county fair when Bethany was 9 years old.

"I never thought I'd have to use them," she said.

Now she's rallying behind the Harringtons, working to keep attention on her case and warning others of the danger out there.

"It's not a sacrifice to spread the message," Nelson said. "Our daughters are worth fighting for."

Follow Help Save the Next Girl on Facebook. Join the Virginia Tech chapter here.

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