Maryland Hiker’s Murder Leads to Arrest of Man Wanted in El Salvador Killing

Maryland Hiker's Murder Leads to Arrest of Man Wanted in El Salvador Killing

Authorities announced on Saturday that a man wanted in El Salvador for the death of a young woman was apprehended in connection with the murder of a hiker in Maryland last year.

About 11:30 p.m., the 23-year-old suspect, Victor Antonio Martinez-Hernandez, was taken into custody in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sheriff Jeff Gahler of Harford County, Maryland, stated on Friday at a press conference.

The day after Rachel Morin’s boyfriend reported her missing, on August 6, 2023, her body was found at Ma and Pa Trail in Bel Air, Maryland, according to the authorities. Prior to nightfall on August 5, the sheriff had suggested she might have been slain in the hour or two before.

Officials from the sheriff’s office stated in a statement on Saturday that they think Martinez-Hernandez “was hiding adjacent to a trail and where Rachel was walking and attacked and killed Morin before fleeing Maryland.”

The manner in which 37-year-old Morin, a mother of five, was slain and if a weapon was used are not disclosed by the authorities. In relation to the Morin attack, Gahler said on Saturday that the suspect is charged in Maryland with first-degree rape and first-degree murder.

According to Gahler, the suspect entered the country illegally in February 2023 while escaping from El Salvadorian officials who were looking for him in connection with a young woman’s death there. The group that the guy allegedly claimed was not named by the sheriff.

During the press conference on Saturday, the sheriff attacked the federal government’s border security policies.

“American citizens are not safe because of failed immigration policies,” Gahler stated.

He claimed that Morin was the second woman in the county to have been assassinated in recent years by an illegal immigrant from El Salvador with gang affiliations.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has promised to “close” the border if elected, and he has charged that President Joe Biden has allowed a “open border” with Mexico that allows criminals from all over the world to enter the country.

Despite the fact that border expenditure has increased steadily since the 1990s, Biden last month took administrative action to “suspend the entry” of illegal immigrants in response to worries about migration.

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According to Oklahoma jail records, the suspect was being held in Tulsa County without bond due to a “fugitive from justice” hold, as well as holds from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the state of Maryland.

If Martinez-Hernandez has hired legal representation, it was unclear. A request for comment was accepted by the public defender’s office in Bel Air, but no response was received from them right away in Tulsa. Gahler expressed his concern that the Harford County case may be linked to other crimes.

“The investigators fear that we are going to stumble across another crime,” Gahler stated.

Familial DNA, or genetic material that may be linked to a limited number of relatives, is what led to the suspect, according to William J. DelBagno, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore office. As part of the inquiry, agents went to El Salvador, he added.

There were no details available regarding the El Salvador killing, which was reported to have occurred in January 2023. Gahler stated, “We suspected that Rachel was not the first victim.”

The sheriff stated that on May 20, Morin’s birthday, investigators initially focused on Martinez-Hernandez.

The suspect’s arrest narrative was told in a few different ways.

During the press conference, Gahler stated that Tulsa police had discovered the suspect late on Friday and were unaware that he was wanted.

Martinez-Hernandez was detained by Tulsa business park officers on a trespassing charge. Upon checking his identification, the officers found Martinez-Hernandez was wanted, according to the sheriff.

A request for comment from the Tulsa Police Department was not immediately answered.

At the press conference, officials expressed confidence that Martinez-Hernandez would be extradited and convicted in Maryland before being considered for prosecution by authorities in El Salvador or California. Regarding the California case, no charges have been declared.

At the press conference on Saturday, Patricia “Patty” Morin, the mother of Morin, gave a speech in which she thanked the news media for “keeping the story alive” and the investigators for solving a challenging case.

“At one point when things seemed really bleak and hopeless,” she stated, “the lead detective said to me, he said, patience will win in the end.”


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