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Sheriff calls out White House after second migrant commits murder in his county

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Matt Hubbard
Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — A suspect in the murder of Bel Air mother Rachel Morin is in custody in Tulsa, Oklahoma, awaiting extradition to Harford County, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said at a news conference Saturday.

“Rachel’s murderer is no longer a free man and hopefully, he will never have the opportunity to walk free again,” Gahler said.

Victor Antonio Martinez-Hernandez, 23, of El Salvador, was taken into custody by Tulsa County Police Friday night for allegedly trespassing, according to police. He is being held without bond as a fugitive from justice along with a hold from Maryland for the murder of Morin and a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement retainer.

In connection to the death of Morin, Martinez-Hernandez is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree rape.

Gahler said Saturday that investigators believe Martinez-Hernandez illegally entered the United States in February of last year.

Through collaboration with FBI international personnel in El Salvador, investigators discovered that Martinez-Hernandez had allegedly murdered a young woman in El Salvador in January — one month prior to entering the United States.

The alleged murder in El Salvador, and what investigators said was Martinez-Hernandez’s connection to Salvadoran street gangs, led to an Interpol red notice — an international request for law enforcement to locate and detain an individual — being issued.

“Victor Hernandez did not come here to make a better life for himself or for his family. He came here to escape with crimes committed in El Salvador,” Gahler said. “He came here and murdered Rachel and God willing no one else. But that should have never been allowed to happen.”

Police said they were able to identify Martinez-Hernandez as a result of DNA evidence recovered from the scene on the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail in Bel Air where Morin’s body was discovered in August of last year.

The 37-year-old mother of five was reported missing by her boyfriend when she did not return home from a walk on Aug. 5. After Morin’s body was found the following day, the Harford County Sheriff’s Department launched a homicide investigation.

Morin’s death quickly drew national attention as detectives worked to identify a possible suspect and motive. Sheriff Gahler urged residents to “be cautious” following Morin’s death.

Canvassing efforts, information fliers and events to support Morin’s family were held. A reward fund that was created by the law firm representing Morin’s family — Rice, Murtha & Psoras — reached $35,000 in February.

Less than a month after Morin’s death, police matched the DNA recovered from Morin to DNA found at a crime scene in Los Angeles, where a 9-year-old girl and her mother were attacked during a home invasion.

The DNA, along with security footage, gave detectives a visual of the person they were looking for but the suspect’s identity remained unknown.

Los Angeles Police wanted Martinez-Hernandez for residential burglary and assault.

Gahler said that on May 20 — Morin’s birthday — investigators uncovered a lead that identified Martinez-Hernandez as Morin’s suspected killer.

Martinez-Hernandez worked odd jobs and lived a “cheap life” that allowed him to drift from El Salvador, to Los Angeles, to Bel Air, to Prince George’s County and Tulsa, Gahler said.

Martinez-Hernandez was said to have ties to street gangs and connections in the Washington, D.C., area, Gahler said.

Morin’s mother, Patricia Morin, showed visible emotion during the news conference. She stated that at some points of the investigation, she grew hopeless but was encouraged to stay patient because “in the end, patience wins.”

When community members rallied together for a canvass in December, Patricia Morin said the amount of people who showed up to give support gave her hope.

“At some of the points during this, I didn’t think that we were ever going to have an answer and that it would be a cold case,” Patricia said. “It gave me hope that people really did care about our family and my daughter.”

An attorney representing Morin’s family, Randolph Rice, said the entire team, including the family and lawyers, as well as the Harford County community are “incredibly relieved” that an arrest was made in the case and the suspect is no longer on the loose. He called it a “good day for the good guys.”

“A lot of mixed emotions,” Rice said. “They still lost Rachel, and she’s still not coming back.”

Having an arrest in the case is an ending to the search, but just the beginning of an entire new legal process, he said.

“This is going to be a long, long road of hearings and appearances and motions,” Rice said.

The process for extradition from Tulsa to Harford County has been initiated, according to the Harford County State’s Attorney Allison Healy, who said she will be leading the prosecution.

“I never want him to leave Maryland again,” Gahler said. “I want him to die in the Maryland prison system.”

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