Morgan Harrington’s Murder: A Security Check On Security- Why Did It Fail?
On the afternoon of October 17, 2009, Morgan Harrington and three of her friends drove to John Paul Jones Arena, located on the University of Virginia campus, to attend a long-anticipated Metallica concert. Following an apparent fall and chin injury occurring around the time she was visiting the ladies room, Morgan ended up outside the arena and attempted to gain re-entry to the venue.
How and why she got there comes in at a baffling second only compared to what happened to her next. Morgan went missing the evening of October 17, 2009; January 26, 2010 Morgan’s body was found on Anchorage Farm located in Albemarle County. The cause of her death has not be released, her manner of death has been classified as homicide by the VA State Police.
Gil Harrington’s has made it clear that her family’s mission is to prevent what happened to Morgan from happening to another victim and their goal is to educate young women about safety and personal security.
As our very vulnerable student body returns to campus next month, blinkoncrime.com provides a glimpse at current conditions.
Unregulated Regulations In Security
The 2004 General Assembly, through House Joint Resolution (HJR122), requested the Virginia State Crime Commission to study safety at Virginia’s institutions of higher education. As a result, DCJS created the Office of Campus Policing and Security (OCPS) to address the law requiring minimum training and employment standards for campus security officers.
Campus Security Regulations for Institutions of Higher Education in the State of Virginia, fall under the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Private Security Services Advisory Board. Below is an excerpt of the unapproved draft meeting notes of their quarterly meeting held December 8, 2009; the first and only since Morgan’s disappearance from JPJ.
The issue of safety and security on college campuses was addressed in a 2006 Crime Commission Study on Campus Safety. This study resulted in the statutory requirements under Code of Virginia (Code) §9.1-102 (49).
College populations represent a large concentration of students between the ages of 18-25 years with limited supervision and life experience. In terms of homeland security, campuses are identified as “soft targets” and are frequently targeted by domestic and foreign terrorists. Campuses also house volatile materials and research facilities that are also targeted by radical elements in society. Campuses host large stadium events and concerts that are potential targets for terrorism and riots. Most campuses also have facilities that are open to the public and are relatively difficult to secure and lockdown. Campus Security Officers are primary first responders to incidents of crime and violence on campus.
Although UVA campus security officers require a certification provided by DCJS, there are ZERO regulatory standards for certification. It was NOT until Morgan Harrington disappeared from the grounds of the JPJ Arena that emergency regulations were sought from Governor Bob McDonnell.
How does a woman on the campus of a University that provides it’s very own Police Department in addition to event security simply vanish without a trace?
By the time Morgan ends up in a hay field 7 miles away, she has passed through 3 different law enforcement jurisdictions and a slew of private campus and event security agencies and personnel. While private security regulations fall under the umbrella of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, they also require a judicial amendment only if and when they are approved via “emergency” status by the Governor.
Who’s Looking Out For The Kids, Exactly?
As the safety on campus study showed, our college age kids are at their most vulnerable in the University setting. Out from under the watchful eye of Mom and Dad and wading through the rich culture and nightlife of downtown Charlottesville, students face a host of potential safety risks.
In fact, during the very development of this article, I received an alert from UVA security that a UVA student was sexually assaulted in the area of Roosevelt Boulevard. While I commend the swift response and warning from UVA PD chief Michael Gibson, I can’t help but wonder if a similar alert upon learning Morgan disappeared from the UVA/JPJ campus would have made a difference for her.
A simple Google of “Charlottesville security” produces the front page for HH Security Services, Inc, a local private security and bail bonding firm. I am no expert but isn’t it a bit odd to claim to protect one’s security and then bond out someone that may threaten it in the first place?
Who is vetting the security that is responsible for ensuring safety?
While HH Security or it’s employees have no known ties whatsoever to the Harrington case, it is a prime example of the weakness of current security regulations, involving students and private events, 6 years in the making.
At H & H Security Services, Inc. we specialize in Private Investigation, Private Security both armed and unarmed as well as fast efficient Civil Process Service. Our full-time professional agents are well trained, well equipped, well informed, and discreet.? Owner Rod Howard is a native of Charlottesville and central Virginia, where he’s been a well respected business owner for over twenty years. H & H Security Services, Inc. is his vehicle in his effort to help serve and protect the community he grew up in. Over the years he’s assembled a team of certified and experienced personnel who share his commitment to the safety of the community.
HH Security, in a business journal ad, claims to hire members of law enforcement and be very well connected with various police departments and security agencies for nightclubs, special events and home security checks as well in 2007.
HH Security is the security firm of choice for Club 216, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Rivals, which are bars frequently visited by UVA students and athletes.
Roderick M Howard, owner of HH Security and H&H Car detailing maintains active licenses issued through the VA Dept of Criminal Justice Services for private security and as a bailbondsman.
While blinkoncrime editors were researching this piece, a review of Albemarle County Court records show Roderick Howard was arrested for felony rape in 1993, subsequently indicted for same and a year later on the first day of trial, pled guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery whereby he was sentenced to 12 months, 11 of which were suspended and two years unsupervised probation. Howard was also arrested a few times for felony bad checks; both cases ended nolle prosequi.
How can an accused rapist and convicted sexual batterer hold a dual license in the private security sector as well as two classifications of firearms, all of which is monitored by the VADCJS? It is specifically stated in the regulations regarding moral turpitude AND sexual battery that the VADCJS MAY DENY an applicant on those grounds.
According to Mr. Howard’s own advertisement, he has been in the security industry since 1989. Would that mean he was employed in the security field when he was arrested for rape?
Shockingly, It may be perfectly legal. Although the administrative statute for licensure prohibits granting a license to someone with a misdemeanor sexual battery conviction, if Howard divulged the crime in his application and requested a waiver from the director at the time, it is possible one was granted.
Blinkoncrime.com spoke to Lisa McGee, Regulatory Program Manager for DCJS, private security advisory committee:
“…there is a code in the statute that allows the potential for both an individual convicted of a felony and the outlined misdemeanors exceptions contained therein to obtain a director’s waiver. Two felonies we would never even consider are rape and murder, but dependent upon the criminal offense, the circumstances and the length of time that has transpired with a clean record, the verbiage in the statute would allow an applicant to at least request a waiver for our consideration…” Lisa McGee
Ms. McGee was not able to address Mr. Howard’s file specifically, citing privacy laws, but she was able to verify that Mr. Howard’s registration with the agency is current.
There are however, some discrepancies in the press release written to announce the “restructuring” of both companies, announced October 19th.
For starters, there was only a name change to Mr. Howard’s business, which actually took place prior to the October 19 release date, in May, 2009.
These are not two separate businesses. In fact, the bailbondsman license issued to Mr. Howard’s agent, Anthony Halstead, leads back to Accelerated Bail Bonds, which is not a listed entity in the state of Virginia or listed as a fictitious name for H&H Security Services.
I would be willing to wager that the police departments that allow off duty security employment with this firm would appreciate some clarification on both the personnel and licensing issues.
There has been no arrest in the homicide of Morgan Harrington. In a statement released by Corrine Geller, PR manager for the Virginia State Police, VSP has received approximately 100 significant leads from the release of the sketch of the alleged perpetrator of the 2005 Fairfax County sex assault.
Dan and Gil Harrington will be meeting with new University of Virginia President, Teresa Sullivan, next month to address safety and security issues on campus.
“..People think it cannot happen to them, IT CAN– Dan Harrington.”
Editors Note: I am not a resident of Virginia. However, I think the interest of the safety of our children is a National one. Any person that is placed in a position of public trust, most especially those that come into contact with our vulnerable students, should be REQUIRED to disclose past convictions that would negate them that position without some sort of subjective “pass”. How can we know-TRULY KNOW the level of presumed safety if we really aren’t aware of the backgrounds of those in charge of it?
Blinkoncrime.com editors Jason Mateos, Elizabeth Morton and Madeline Tanner contributed to this report
Images by Klaasend
Respectfully submitted via BlinkOnCrime – thank you to all that continue to bring much needed attention and awareness to crimes on campuses and the lack of security for our young people.
Reminding Students New College & University Campus Safety Information Is Available Under Federal Clery Act – Check for updates in September, 2010…
“The Clery Act information provides students and families with an important starting point for evaluating campus safety,” added Jonathan Kassa, SOC’s Executive Director. “While differences in campus environments make a strict ranking system difficult, these disclosures make it possible to have a side-by-side comparison of the level of security provided by different institutions and to ask informed questions.”
Many institutions make their complete ASR available on their websites according to SOC. Crime statistics for each institution can be accessed via SOC’s website at
Please be sure to check out your college/university of choice.
Do not allow any college or university to “cover-up” any assault. Know your rights, follow-up on your reporting and PRESS CHARGES! Do not allow anyone at any college or university to “hush” a report. You do have options, know your rights!
And, research…know every aspect of the security in place for every function. It’s your safety – you can only depend on yourself to be sure that you will remain safe. There is nothing wrong with learning and knowing how to be YOUR OWN BODYGUARD.
Take care and STAY SAFE!