Morgan Harrington

Morgan Harrington

The coverage of Morgan Harrington is a glaring example of the opportunistic and erroneous reporting of Christina Stoy having substantial real world consequences. falsely reported a connection between the murder of Harrington and the 2010 murder of Vanessa Pham. This erroneous reporting prompted Virginia State investigators to release information to the public, information they had withheld because they feared its release would compromise their investigation.

20 year old Morgan Harrington's remains were found on a farm in Virginia in January of 2010. The case made national headlines and was a staple of the repertoire for quite a while.

In July of 2011, Christina Stoy published an article citing an inside source, reporting that a DNA match had been made to another unsolved murder. Stoy reported that a forensic link had been established between Harrington and the death of Vanessa Pham. The article on indicated that "sources inside the investigation have confirmed Virginia State Police are preparing to announce a possible connection between Harrington’s murder, and the homicide of Vanessa Pham in Fairfax, VA."

The Harrington case had sat cold for nearly a year, and the release of this impending connection to a recent case was quickly spread across the internet. And to the Virginia State Police, the actual investigators of the murder of Morgan Harrington, quite to their surprise. Unknown to the public, investigators had matched DNA from the Harrington investigation and the sexual assault of a Fairfax woman in 2005. As well, investigators had a composite of the alleged perpetrator from that 2005 incident. This was information that investigators had decided to withhold from the public.

What investigators did not have, was any connection to the murder of Vanessa Pham. While investigators might have planned to release the connection to the 2005 assault on their own time, they never planned to release any possible connection to Vanessa Pham. Because there wasn't and isn't one. Fearing widespread misinformation and false leads, investigators decided to release the DNA link and composite sketch, despite the fact they had intentionally withheld both to protect their investigation.

"State Police spokesperson Corrinne Geller, says police would have actually preferred to withhold the information and the composite sketch from the public even longer than they did in order to collect more information and finish pursuing investigative leads with the Fairfax police department.
Geller says the timing of the release was prompted by a crime blog, which announced that investigators had discovered a link between the Harrington case and another recent Fairfax case–- the wrong one. When news outlets began contacting her for confirmation, Geller says, police feared widespread misinformation would damage the investigation by prompting a flurry of false leads.
"It pressured us to get this information out there," says Geller, admitting that the decision was so rushed that police hadn't even shown the composite to David Bass, the man who found Harrington's remains and who might have recalled seeing someone fitting the description on his 742-acre farm."

Stoy quickly turned around and edited her content. But the damage was done. An investigation in the death of a 20 year old woman was compromised by an amateurish internet blogger.

The murder of Vanessa Pham has since been solved, with no connection or suspicion of connection to either the 2005 Fairfax assault or the Harrington murder.