Rachel Morin spent her childhood making mud pies and stirring “forest stew.” As teens, she and her siblings would laugh for hours around the dinner table. And, when she gave birth to her own five children, she welcomed them into this warm and deeply religious Harford County family, her loved ones recalled at her celebration of life Sunday.
“We often joked about being in our 80s and living in the same old folks’ home. We imagined the mischief we would cause and laugh at how odd people would find our bond, the same bond we had shared since childhood,” one of Morin’s brothers said in a recording played at the service. “We were, and always will be, best friends.”
The family’s peace was shattered Aug. 6 when Morin’s body was discovered near the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail in Bel Air.
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the FBI, continues to hunt for her killer, who is believed to have been a stranger to her. Traces of DNA found on Morin’s body link her killing to a Los Angeles home invasion in March, although authorities have not yet identified the man suspected in both attacks. The man’s back and profile are visible in a security video from the L.A. home, leading authorities to believe he is a Hispanic man from 20-30 and about 5 feet, 9 inches.
The sheriff’s office has received more than 300 tips about the case, a spokeswoman said. Metro Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Morin’s killer.
But mourners on Sunday at Greater Grace Church Baltimore focused on the joy and enthusiasm with which Morin filled her 37 years, as well as the anguish of losing her to a sudden and violent death.
“There is pain, so much pain right now,” Greater Grace youth ministry director Pete Westera said. “Undeniably, we are crying in our hearts.”
Her mother, Patty Morin, spoke of being in Kentucky for another family tragedy — a grandchild there had died of sudden infant death syndrome — on Saturday, Aug. 5, when she learned Rachel had gone missing after leaving for a hike on the Ma & Pa Trail.
“The first thing you think as a mom is ‘I wish I could be there,’” Patty Morin said. “She’s probably scared. And then night comes, and you think she’s all alone out there.”
When the news came the following day that Rachel Morin’s body had been found, her family members clutched their chests because their grief was so great, her mother said.
Patty Morin said she found comfort in a hymn about the presence of God, which members of the church’s music team performed for the 200 or so mourners assembled in the East Baltimore church. “In the darkness God will keep me. He will stay and never sleep,” they sang.
She also spoke of the hundreds who approached her at a memorial walk last weekend, including many who said they didn’t know Rachel well but she always greeted them with a warm smile. “We think those are little ordinary things, but they actually mean something to people,” Patty Morin said.
A montage of images showed Rachel Morin growing from a red-haired baby with a big grin, a young girl stroking a baby lamb, to a gangly teen, a new mother, a bride and, most recently, the fit, polished mother of five and owner of a home-cleaning business.
In an accompanying audio recording, her siblings recalled Morin’s joyful spirit. Her sister, Rebekah Morin, spoke of wishing for a baby sister and knowing, long before Rachel was born, that her mother was carrying a girl.
But it was after both had grown and borne children of their own that the sisters’ bond deepened, Rebekah Morin said. “The thing that always stood out for me was how much she loved her kids and would do anything for them,” she said. “She got such a kick out of them, and they were a riot always, and she would laugh over the things they would do.”
Joseph Murtha, an attorney representing the family, requested that members of the media not approach the family at Sunday’s service. Morin’s killing has been covered by international media, with tabloids and cable news shows dissecting each twist in the case.
Murtha said the family had held a small, private funeral and burial for Rachel Morin previously. Sunday’s service allowed friends, church members and others to show their respects to the family. Scores of people embraced Patty Morin after the service, offering condolences and assurances of faith.
Thomas Schaller, Greater Grace’s senior pastor, said in his opening remarks that “Rachel is present in the warm arms of God.”
“We also pray for justice to happen in this case,” Schaller said. “It will ultimately happen one day.”