Suspect arrested in 2023 murder of mother of 5 killed while hiking in Maryland

DNA evidence was key in finding Rachel Morin's alleged killer, police said.

June 15, 2024, 4:55 PM

After 10 months of searching the country, investigators said they arrested the suspect on Friday who they say allegedly murdered Rachel Morin while she was hiking through a Maryland trail last summer.

Harford County Sherriff Jeffrey Gahler told reporters Saturday that through DNA evidence and tracking, local police and the FBI arrested Victor Antonio Martinez-Hernandez in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in connection with the 2023 killing.

Morin, 37, a mother of five, was found dead on the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail on Aug. 6, 2023, a day after her boyfriend reported her missing after she didn't return home from a hike.

In this photo released by the Harford County Sheriff's Office, Rachel Morin is shown.
Harford County Sheriff's Office

Gahler said that his team, the FBI and the community worked relentlessly to bring justice to Morin and her family.

"Our deputies and partners have worked this case with persistence and passion every day," he said.

Martinez-Hernandez, 23, will be charged with first-degree murder and first-degree rape when he is extradited to Maryland, Gahler said.

Investigators believe Morin was attacked on the trail and pulled through a wooded area before being killed in a drainage culvert that runs alongside the trail, the sheriff's office previously said.

DNA evidence was recovered at the crime scene shortly after Morin's body was found linked to a 2023 home invasion in Los Angeles, where a suspect's DNA had been found. A 9-year-old girl was assaulted in the LA case, according to the sheriff.

Although they had the DNA evidence and video from that break-in, Gahler said they did not have an identity on the suspect until May.

Police said they arrested Victor Antonio Martinez-Hernandez on June 14, 2024 in connection with the 2023 homicide of Rachel Morin.
Harford County Sheriff's Office

Martinez-Hernandez, allegedly entered the U.S. illegally last year from El Salvador, where he was wanted for murdering a woman, according to the sheriff and the FBI.

"Now with the new DNA evidence we knew who he is but we didn't know where he was," Gahler said.

Two weeks ago, investigators tracked the suspect to Tulsa and an arrest warrant was issued Friday.

Gahler said his office privately informed Morin's family about the warrant before the arrest was made.

Patricia Morin, the victim's mother, held back tears as she thanked the investigators and press for helping to find the suspect.

Patricia Morin, the mother of Rachel Morin, speaks at a news conference at the Harford County Sheriff's Office on June 15, 2024, following the arrest of a suspect in her daughter's homicide.
Harford County Sheriff's Office

"At one point when things looked really bleak and hopeless, the lead detective told me, 'Patience will win in the end,'" she said during the news conference. "I'm very thankful and very grateful."

The investigation into the murder is still ongoing.

Gahler said that investigators still don't know the motive behind the killing, however, he noted that it appeared the suspect acted alone.

Attorney information for the suspect was not immediately available. An extradition date has not been set.

ABC News' Nadine El-Bawab contributed to this report.