Harford County investigators are pursuing a lead that took them to Los Angeles and Chicago in an effort to find the killer of Rachel Morin, a 37-year-old mother of five who was slain near a wooded trail in Bel Air last month, Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said.
DNA found on Morin’s body matched that of DNA found at the site of a March home invasion and “assault on a young female” in Los Angeles, Gahler said. When sheriff’s deputies traveled to the West Coast to investigate that case, they discovered information that led them to Illinois, Gahler said.
“We sent investigators to Chicago last week,” Gahler said in an interview Tuesday. “The investigation has progressed, but we have nothing that tells me we’re going to be solving this overnight.”
Gahler also said there were similarities between the incident in Los Angeles and the attack on Morin, a fitness enthusiast whose body was found on Aug. 6 in a wooded area near the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail.
“Criminals have habits,” Gahler said. “He did this thing in Los Angeles and there are some elements of that crime, which I can’t discuss, that are present in what happened here in Rachel’s homicide.”
Gahler declined to provide details about the California incident, and the Los Angeles Police have been similarly tight-lipped. A widely circulated security video from the incident shows a shirtless man exiting a home through a heavy wooden door. He appears to briefly converse with a person inside the home; the other person’s hands are seen shutting the door.
“I recognize that it is confusing,” said Gahler. “The way he left the house in the video — it’s not the way anyone expects that if the person committed a home invasion and assault on a young person … that that’s the way that person would be leaving.”
Authorities believe the suspect is a Hispanic man between 20 and 30 years old who is around 5-foot-9 and weighs about 160 pounds. The security video does not show his face, but his hair is cropped in a fashionable style and he does not have any visible tattoos.
The sheriff’s office will be distributing flyers and videos in Spanish in an effort to reach those who might not be following news coverage of Morin’s killing in English, Gahler said.
Gahler said that it is not known whether the suspect chose Morin at random as she walked on the trail at dusk or if “somewhere along the way they had crossed paths and he developed an infatuation.”
He also said he believed the suspect would commit more crimes. “He’s going to do this again if he is not captured,” Gahler said. “That is, if he hasn’t already done it and the crimes haven’t been linked yet.”
Morin’s family did not immediately respond to requests for comment through their attorney Tuesday. Some of Morin’s siblings were planning to go to the trail Tuesday evening to pass out fliers including information that a Bowie-based criminal profiler, Pat Brown, had drawn up based on what she knew of the investigation. The flier states that the profiler believes the culprit has “psychopathic tendencies” and has some connection to the trail, either running on it, working on it or living near it.
Gahler said Brown was not working with his office, but said the family had sought the approval of deputies before collaborating with the profiler.
At a late August celebration of life, family members remembered Morin as a joyful, enthusiastic woman who filled the lives of her siblings and children with laughter and love. She was deeply religious and loved to dance and exercise.
Her mother, Patty Morin, said many people had approached her to say they didn’t know her daughter by name, but recognized her warm smile.
“We think those are little ordinary things, but they actually mean something to people,” she said.