Investigators believe the man who killed Rachel Morin on a scenic hiking trail in Bel Air nearly two weeks ago also broke into a home and assaulted a girl in Los Angeles in March.
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday night that they recovered DNA from Morin’s body that was matched through the national law enforcement database to evidence from the crime in Los Angeles. Investigators don’t know the suspected killer’s name, but believe him to be a man about 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, between 20 and 30 years old and of Hispanic descent.
“We believe this was a person that Rachel didn’t know, potentially a random act of violence,” Col. William Davis told reporters during a news conference. “We know nothing more about him other than he was in L.A. in March and we believe him to be the murderer.”
The sheriff’s office released home surveillance video from Los Angeles that shows the man walking out without his shirt on. Davis said he hoped someone in Los Angeles or Harford County would see the video and recognize the attacker.
The killing of Morin, a 37-year-old mother of five, has drawn widespread attention. True crime YouTubers and podcasters seized on the case. Court records show Morin had a history of litigation with her romantic partners, leading to debate on social media about the identity of her killer.
She disappeared on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 5, after apparently leaving for a walk on the Ma and Pa Heritage Trail, a scenic path that winds through Bel Air. Her boyfriend, Richard Tobin, called police that same evening to report her missing. Tobin said he had found her car at the Williams Street trailhead in the heart of Bel Air, according to the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff’s deputies fanned out across the trail Saturday evening and Sunday morning. A resident who volunteered to help with the search found Morin’s body around 1 p.m. on Sunday. The sheriff’s office has declined to say exactly where Morin’s body was found or what sort of injuries she had sustained, but said her death was clearly a homicide.
Los Angeles police said that the suspect was involved in a residential burglary and assault that took place on March 26 in South Los Angeles. A spokeswoman said that the assault was not of a sexual nature, but that investigators did not want to disclose “any more details about what occurred in the house at this time.”
“Los Angeles Police Department detectives have been in contact with Harford County Investigators to provide any and all information needed to bring the person responsible for such a brutal and senseless murder to justice,” said Capt. Kelly Muniz. “We will continue to support the Harford County Sheriff’s Department as they move forward with their investigation, as well as provide any additional information we may uncover as we proceed with our burglary and assault investigation.”
Morin ran a house-cleaning business and loved to read, dance and exercise, according to a friend, Becca Dill. Morin had recently announced on Facebook that she was in a relationship with Tobin.
After numerous people on social media expressed suspicions about Tobin, he took to Facebook to declare his innocence. Tobin wrote that he loved Morin and “would never do anything to her.”
Similarly, a source close to Morin’s boyfriend said the 27-year-old provided investigators with his cellphone and a DNA sample. The source asked not to be identified because of the intense media coverage surrounding the case.
Sheriff Jeff Gahler said that 10 investigators were working around the clock to solve the case. Sheriff’s deputies had received more than 100 tips, but Gahler has urged people to send in more, even if the information seemed inconsequential.
Morin’s sister, Rebekah Morin, created a GoFundMe page, which had taken in more than $45,000 in donations. She wrote on Facebook that the family appreciates “the outpouring of love and compassion from so many people all over the world.”
Banner investigative reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this report.