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OTRC: Metallica helps FBI in efforts to catch Virginia student's killer, offers $50,000

Virginia Tech college student Morgan Harrington appears in a photo provided by the FBI. / James Hetfield of Metallica appears in a June 13, 2012 PSA aimed at helping the FBI catch the person suspected of killing her. (FBI.gov / youtu.be/_tkVcZB2pds)

Metallica is helping the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its efforts to catch a man suspected of killing college student Morgan Harrington, who was found dead months after attending one of the heavy metal band's concerts in 2009.

Lead singer James Hetfield, a father of three, stars in a public service announcement video about the case. The clip is part of the FBI's new "multimedia campaign" to find the killer. It was posted on YouTube on Wednesday, June 13.

"Back in 2010, our band offered $50,000 to help catch the person responsible for murdering Morgan Herrington," he said. "Since that time, authorities uncovered new evidence linking her killer to a similar assault on a woman in Virginia. If you've seen the person in this sketch or have any information about this case or any others, please contact your local police or submit your information online."

The band's donation raises the FBI's reward offer for information that may lead to the arrest of the killer, whose identity is unknown, to $150,000. Composite sketches of the suspect are being featured on bus shelters in Washington, D.C. and on digital billboards in 23 states along the East Coast, the FBI said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday.

Harrington, then a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, was last seen on Oct. 17, 2009 hitchhiking for a ride near passing traffic after attending a Metallica concert on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville.

Her Pantera T-shirt was found the following November in front of a row of apartments and her skeletal remains were discovered in January 2010 in a remote field on a farm, about 10 miles away.

The FBI says DNA evidence links Harrington's murder to a 2005 sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in Fairfax City, Virginia. At the time, the agency described her assailant as "an African-American male with black hair and facial hair," aged 25 to 35, who is "approximately 6'0" tall."

"Authorities recently enhanced the composite sketch created in 2005 from a description by the sexual assault victim. One of the composites shows the suspect with facial hair, as the suspect was described at the time of the attack," the FBI statement said. "The second composite sketch features him without facial hair."

Harrington's mother, Gil, told the Associated Press: "To have abduction, rape and murder of your child is an obscenity. It is an abomination. The band reacted to that right away. It was a matter of days before James Hetfield was on the phone to [my husband] Dan saying, 'As a father, I am outraged.'"

Hetfield, 48, and wife Francesca are parents to two daughters - Cali, who celebrated her 14th birthday on Wednesday, and Marcella, 10, as well as a son, Castor, who is 12. Metallica's other members are also parents. Drummer Lars Ulrich has four sons. Guitarist Kirk Hammett has two boys, while bassist Robert Trujillo has a son and a daughter.

After Harrington's death, a scholarship fund was created in her name at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, where she worked and studied and where her father serves as Senior Dean for Academic Affairs.

"Morgan was a shiny, loving, beautiful original," he said on the school's website. "She was very much loved by her family, friends, and her community, which has now expanded to include much of the world. We cherish the time we had with Morgan and are grateful for the breadth and variety of experiences we were able to share in her tragically abbreviated life."

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