CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The parents of murdered Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington say the indictment and upcoming trial of Jesse Matthew is lifting their spirits, at a traditionally difficult time of the year for them.
“For people who have a dead child, the holiday season is really more a matter of navigation,” said Gil Harrington, after a brief pretrial hearing for Matthew. “We try to navigate through it and not get lost in the places where there’s too much sorrow.”
Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old student at Virginia Tech, was murdered in October 2009 after attending a concert at the University of Virginia. Her remains were discovered in Albemarle County in January 2010.
Harrington said Matthew being behind bars, and awaiting trial in 2016 for her daughter’s and University of Virginia student Hannah Graham’s murder, has provided “some psychic release.”
“I feel more progress towards the possibility of celebration and joy than we have in six years,” Harrington said.
The hearing was the final one for outgoing Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford, who secured both indictments against Matthew, and was defeated in her re-election bid by Robert Tracci.
Tracci was sworn in earlier in the day by Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins, who is presiding over the Harrington and Graham cases.
Asked who will be prosecuting the case as of Jan. 1, when Tracci enters office, Lunsford said “that will be up to Mr. Tracci.”
Tracci, a former federal prosecutor, has never tried a murder case. He has not declared whether he will personally prosecute Matthew, or assign the case to an assistant prosecutor.
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