The hunt for a suspect in the killing of Rachel Morin, which began last summer near a verdant Bel Air trail, ended late Friday in a Tulsa bar.

Authorities arrested Victor Antonio Martinez Hernandez, 23, charging him with first-degree murder and first-degree rape in the killing of Morin, a 37-year-old mother of five whose body was found in August.

“Rachel’s murderer is no longer a free man,” Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said at a Saturday afternoon news conference. “Hopefully he’ll never have the opportunity to walk free again.”

Surrounded by law enforcement officials from the FBI, Homeland Security and other agencies, Gahler detailed a series of crimes spanning thousands of miles to which he said Hernandez is connected.

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Hernandez is wanted for killing a woman in his native El Salvador in January 2023, then violently attacking a girl in a Los Angeles home invasion two months later, Gahler said. He surfaced in Bel Air last summer.

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler announces the capture of Victor Martinez Hernandez in the death of Rachel Morin during a press conference Saturday.

Numerous witnesses spotted a man matching Hernandez’s description lurking in the woods near the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail in the days prior to Morin’s killing, according to investigators.

Morin, 37, went for a run along the Bel Air trail around 6 p.m. on Aug. 5 and never returned. Volunteers combing the woods found her body in a drainage culvert the following day.

The killing of Morin, who owned a cleaning business and was a fitness enthusiast, galvanized Harford County, where violent crime is rare. The case drew national and international attention from cable news shows, tabloids and social media sleuths. Hundreds of tips poured into the sheriff’s office.

Two weeks after Morin was killed, the sheriff’s office announced that DNA found on Morin’s body was linked to a suspect in a March 2023 home invasion in Los Angeles. Few details have been released on that incident, but investigators said the man violently attacked a girl and left traces of DNA on a water bottle and ball cap at the home.

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A home security video showed a Latino man exiting the home. He appeared to be in his 20s, around 5 foot 9 and 160 pounds, authorities said. In February, the sheriff’s office released a composite sketch of the suspect, based on interviews with people who saw the man around the trail and the Los Angeles home invasion victims.

Bill DelBagno, special agent in charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office, said agents used genetic genealogy — a relatively new technology — to identify the suspect. Investigators traveled to El Salvador to follow a lead, he said.

FBI Special Agent, William DelBango, speaks on the capture of Victor Martinez-Hernandez in the Rachel Morin case during a press conference on June 15, 2024, in Bel Air.
FBI Special Agent William DelBagno speaks on the capture of Victor Martinez Hernandez in the Rachel Morin case during Saturday's news conference. (Eric Thompson)

A major break in the case occurred May 20, which would have been Morin’s 38th birthday, when investigators got a name, Gahler said, calling it “a poetic coincidence or Rachel’s own divine intervention.”

Once investigators had identified Hernandez, they tracked him to Oklahoma. He was “casually sitting at the bar,” when officers surrounded him, according to a Tulsa Police Department Facebook post.

“Initially the suspect lied about his true identity and denied any knowledge of the crimes he is wanted for,” Tulsa police said. A photo accompanying the post showed Hernandez, wearing a yellow T-shirt, his arms apparently handcuffed behind his back, standing in front of a window marked “sports bar.”

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Gahler said that, after leaving Bel Air last summer, Hernandez moved to Prince George’s County, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles before heading to Tulsa. Hernandez worked odd jobs and had ties to gangs, Gahler said.

The sheriff’s office alerted Morin’s family Friday afternoon that investigators had found the suspect and were preparing to arrest him, said Matt McMahon, father of Rachel Morin’s oldest child, Faye McMahon. At 1:18 a.m. Saturday, investigators called to say Hernandez was in custody, McMahon said.

“I’m feeling relief and gratitude,” Matt McMahon said. “Gratitude to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office for not giving up on Rachel.”

Morin’s mother, Patty Morin, who described herself as “very emotional,” also expressed her gratitude to the sheriff’s office at the press conference.

“It gave me such hope that they really did care about my daughter, my family, and they really were going to find the person who murdered my daughter,” Patty Morin said

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The updated wanted poster for the man sought in the death of Rachel Morin. Law enforcement confirmed that 23-year-old Victor Martinez Hernandez was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree rape. (Julie Scharper)

The news rippled through Morin’s family. McMahon said he called and texted friends and the other fathers of Morin’s children. The children range in age from 18 to 8. He spent an hour talking by video messenger with Rachel’s brother, John Morin, in New Zealand.

Patty Morin speaks at the press conference announcing the capture of Victor Martinez Hernandez in the homicide case of her daughter, Rachel Morin. (Eric)

Harford County State’s Attorney Alison Healey vowed to lead the prosecution of Hernandez. She said her office is working to extradite Hernandez to Maryland, a process that could take 10 to 60 days, depending on whether he contests it.

Gahler, a Republican, emphasized that Hernandez was an undocumented immigrant.

“The American citizens are not safe because of failed border policies,” he said, placing the blame on President Joe Biden and Congress.

“Victor Hernandez did not come here to make a better life for himself or his family,” Gahler said. “He came here to escape a murder in El Salvador.”

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Baltimore Banner reporter Lee O. Sanderlin contributed to this report.

This story may be updated. A previous version of this story stated that Hernandez was arrested in a parking lot, based on information from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.