Patty Morin knew her daughter Rachel had been killed on a trail near her Maryland home. She had seen her body at the funeral. But 10 months after her daughter's death, Morin tried not to think about what had happened because she didn't really want to know.

“The pain is so great that you don't want to express it. Through denial, your mind protects you from your pain,” Morin said.

All that denial vanished on June 14, when she received a call from Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler. He told her that detectives had figured out how her daughter was killed in August and that she had been raped, Morin recalled. Investigators also announced that they had found a suspect and were about to take him into custody in Oklahoma.

“It made everything more real, more objective,” said Morin. “You feel the full force of his grief.”

A week after that call, the man wanted for Rachel Morin's murder is scheduled to appear in court Friday. A Harford County District Court judge will decide whether he should remain in jail without bail until his trial.

Victor Martinez-Hernandez, 23, was arrested after officers linked him to the murder through DNA evidence from a recent burglary in Los Angeles, Gahler said. Police charges released Thursday say Rachel Morin was beaten to death and Martinez-Hernandez's family gave investigators two bags of clothing and shoes he left behind that were matched to DNA recovered from the crime scene.

According to online court records, Martinez-Hernandez is eligible to be represented by the Maryland State Public Defender. Harford County Public Defender officials declined to comment Friday.

Martinez-Hernandez entered the U.S. illegally in February 2023, officials said, and fled to the U.S. after the murder of a young woman in his home country. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Martinez-Hernandez entered the U.S. illegally and was sent back across the border three times in January and February 2023. He is believed to have spent time in Maryland, Virginia, Los Angeles and finally Tulsa, where he was arrested earlier this month, police said.

Morin's murder in August attracted widespread attention. The mother of five had gone jogging on the Ma and Pa Heritage Trail about 20 miles northeast of Baltimore but did not return. Her car was found parked at the entrance and her boyfriend reported her missing that same evening.

Patty Morin learned of her daughter's death as she was driving home from Kentucky to mourn the loss of her three-month-old granddaughter, who died of sudden infant death syndrome. Morin and one of her other daughters were driving home after only being on the road for about 30 minutes.

Patty Morin said she expects to attend most, if not all, of the defendant's court hearings in Harford County, a way she believes will help ensure justice is done.

“A mother wants to protect her children, and last year I wasn't there to protect them,” Morin said. “Maybe this is a way to still do that and make sure nothing is left undone.”

Patty Morin has fond memories of her daughter Rachel: the petite red-haired girl, the cheerful and vivacious young woman, the devoted mother of five children whose lives she managed while owning and operating a residential and commercial cleaning business. “She organized her work around her children,” Morin said. “Rachel was a very organized person. … She loved life.”

Because investigators kept their findings so secret at the beginning, Patty Morin and others had no idea how hard they were working and how many people were involved. Then, about four months into the case, a large family, volunteers and police officers gathered to canvas areas in Bel Air to gather possible clues and see if anyone remembered seeing anything.

Morin then entered a room in the sheriff's office with 30 to 40 other people who all played a role in the case.

“I saw that this case was as important to them as it was to me,” she said. “As time went on, I realized that they were also fathers and mothers and husbands and wives. Rachel was not just a file on someone's desk.”

At the beginning of the case, Harford investigators linked Morin's murder to DNA collected during a break-in at a Los Angeles home, where police say Martinez-Hernandez attacked a 9-year-old girl and her mother.

The recent allegations against Martinez-Hernandez and his alleged status as an undocumented immigrant who fled El Salvador after allegedly killing someone there have attracted considerable interest from the news media and the public.

Officials and politicians have spoken out about Martinez-Hernandez's immigration status. At a news conference, Gahler said Martinez-Hernandez “did not come here to make a better life for himself or his family. He came here to escape the crime he committed in El Salvador. He came here and murdered Rachel. And God willing, no one else. But that should never have happened.”

The sheriff also said, “I want to address these comments now to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and to every member in both houses of Congress. We are 1,800 miles away here in Harford County. We are 1,800 miles from the southern border and American citizens are not safe because of failed immigration policies.”

Presidential candidate Donald Trump posted about the case on Truth Social, blaming President Biden's border policies for Rachel's death. Trump called Morin's family to express his condolences, the family's lawyers said Thursday.

According to a Feb. 29 Washington Post Fact-Checker analysis, there is little evidence that immigrants — or even undocumented immigrants — cause more crime. Yet the data is so ambiguous — or there is so little reliable data — that it is difficult to present conclusive results that would change opinion.

“Many politicians, police officers and ordinary citizens are still outraged because this person should not be in the country and therefore committing a crime,” said Michael Light, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who has studied the issue. “The view that the person's undocumented status is an aggravating circumstance is also likely part of why these crimes provoke such strong reactions.”

Morin said she was aware of people's strong views on immigration policy and regulation and their position on the case, but did not want to discuss that aspect.

“I have very strong political views,” she said. “But I don't want the focus to be on politics. … I want the focus to be on Rachel and her story.”

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