The man suspected of killing Rachel Morin in Bel Air in August lurked in a bend of a hiking trail before grabbing the mother of five, dragging her through the woods and fatally attacking her in a drainage culvert, authorities said Monday.

The killer had previously “violently attacked” a Los Angeles family in March, sneaking into their home and assaulting several people before one family member pushed him out, an event captured on home security video, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office said.

Witnesses later reported seeing a man resembling the suspect lurking around the hiking trail in late July and early August, Capt. Andy Lane of the sheriff’s office said in an interview with The Baltimore Banner.

“They saw someone in and around the trail at that time who matched the general description of the man,” said Lane, expounding on revelations from a podcast episode released Monday by the sheriff’s office, a little more than six months after Morin’s body was found near the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail.

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In the podcast, Lane described a killer lying in wait for his victim: “He attacked Rachel on the trail and pulled her through the wooded area into this drainage culvert where she ultimately lost her life.”

The sheriff’s office for the first time Monday released a sketch of the suspect’s face, which showed him wearing a red Nike Jordan cap that he had left at the Los Angeles house. The sketch is based on descriptions of the man lurking around the trail as well as an interview with one of the home invasion victims, Lane said.

The podcast marked the first time that the sheriff’s office publicly acknowledged where the body of Morin, a 37-year-old fitness enthusiast who owned a cleaning company, was found. Morin went for a jog on the trail around 6 p.m. on Aug. 5 and never returned.

Lane, the commander of the criminal investigations division of the sheriff’s office, said multiple people who had been on the trail that evening saw a person standing on an elevated area behind the woodline.

“The location of the attack was chosen … because those culverts were as close as they were and they provided an area for this person to commit this crime and not be seen by members of the public,” he said.

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It is unclear whether the suspect specifically targeted Morin, who often ran on the trail around this time of day. Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler told The Banner last week that investigators are confident that Morin did not know her killer, but that he might have been stealthily tracking her after a chance meeting.

“My gut tells me she was stalked,” Gahler said in the podcast.

The sheriff’s office also released more information about the Los Angeles home invasion in which the killer is also a suspect. Investigators found DNA around Morin’s body that CODIS, a genetic database used by law enforcement officials, matched with DNA found at the California home in August.

Harford County Sheriff's office release sketch in teh Rachel Morin murder.
The Harford County Sheriff's Office released two sketches of a suspect in the August killing of Rachel Morin. (Courtesy of the Harford County Sheriff Office)

The sheriff’s office in August released a short clip of a home security video from the Los Angeles incident that seemed to raise more questions than it answered. The video depicts a shirtless young man appearing to say goodbye to someone in the house, who then closes the door behind him. Only the man’s back and side appear in the video.

The suspect is believed to be a Hispanic man in his 20s, about 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, according to the sheriff’s office.

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Lane said that residents of the L.A. home did not know the attacker, who had entered the home without using the door— which is why there is no footage of him walking into the house. The suspect then “violently and physically attacked multiple people including a child,” Lane said.

A young family member “then enters that room and manages to surprise the suspect and began to force him out of the home,” Lane said. Once the attacker left, Lane said, “the younger person slams the door shut and locks it and immediately calls the police.”

Lane said he believed the suspect might have killed someone had the relative not interceded.

“Had that crime not been interrupted in California, it … most likely would have ended the same way the crime ended here,” he said.

Los Angeles police confiscated the red Jordan cap at the scene as well as a bottle that the suspect had touched and obtained DNA samples from both, Lane said.

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Gahler and Lane urged anyone with possible information about the suspect to contact the Harford County Sheriff’s Office at RMTips@HarfordSheriff.org. Attorneys for Morin’s mother and siblings have announced a $35,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.

Morin’s slaying left her five children, ages 8 to 18, without a mother. The three men who are the fathers of her children have banded together to ensure that the children continue to spend time together. Her mother and siblings are also keenly mourning Morin, who was described as fun-loving and devoted to her family.

“I don’t know if I can live with this pain the rest of the my life,” Morin’s mother, Patty Morin, recently told The Banner. “It’s the most devastating thing a person can experience.”

Matt McMahon, the father of Morin’s oldest child, said he was grateful that the sheriff’s office had released more information about the investigation. He said investigators had been working on the sketch for quite a while to ensure that it accurately depicted the man the Los Angeles family had seen.

“It’s fantastic that the sheriff’s department is providing so many clear details about the suspect and what happened,” McMahon said. “People have been distracted by rumors and false allegations.”

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Investigators said they do not know where the killer is now, but they believe that he was in Bel Air for some time before he attacked Morin.

“We know the suspect was here in Harford County prior to that incident,” Lane said. “There are people who live in this community … that certainly would have interacted and seen this suspect. Those are the people we need to come forward and tell us who this person is and where he is now.”

Julie Scharper is a news enterprise reporter who writes about interesting people, places, trends and traditions in Baltimore and the surrounding counties. She seeks to answer the question: What does it mean to be alive in this time and place? 

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