A citizen called 911 the next day shortly after 1 p.m. to report finding a woman's body off to the side of the Ma & Pa (as in Maryland and Pennsylvania) Trail, according to Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler, turning what had been a missing person search into a homicide investigation.
The 37-year-old mother of five was last seen at 6 p.m. and her boyfriend reported her missing at 11:23 p.m., Gahler said during an Aug. 6 news conference. Investigators found Morin's car parked in a lot at the trailhead, where the boyfriend indicated the vehicle would be, the sheriff continued, and his office issued a public notice that was shared more than 11,000 times.
"That's been a good side of social media," Gahler noted. "The bad side is, there's also been a lot of false or early information shared that we don't want to see. We don't want to see false news out there."
Characterizing the trail as a generally safe place that was important to their town, he advised those using it to stay vigilant and pay attention to their surroundings.
And when it came to Morin's case, which he called a "very active criminal investigation," Gahler said, "If you think you have just the smallest tidbit of information, you saw something in this young lady's travels yesterday, to the trail, on the trail, investigators would like to talk to you."
At that time, the sheriff added, they had no suspects and he could not definitively say there was no further threat to the community.
"Right now," he said, "detectives continue to work the case as aggressively as they possibly can, and we will leave no stone unturned."
What happened to Rachel Morin?
No specific cause of death or further details about the crime scene have been released, but Gahler has referred to what happened to Morin as a "violent homicide."
"It was more than obviously apparent to police officers and our detectives who came up that this was not an accidental injury— somebody out exercising who's fallen down and sustained a fatal injury," the sheriff told Fox News Digital. "This was not something that was self-inflicted...This was the action of one or more persons who took her life in a criminal homicide—an egregious, horrific act in what is very otherwise...a very, very safe area."
There were 10 detectives assigned to Morin's case, Gahler shared in an Aug. 10 video posted to the Harford County Sheriff's Facebook page. Along with forensic investigators and crime analysts, they were working "around the clock" to piece together "the hours, minutes and seconds" leading up to her death.
Gahler said some of the hundreds of tips that came in had been "promising and tremendous in advancing the investigation and bringing us closer to getting the answers that we need, the answers that Rachel's family needs and the answers that this community needs."
And since many people had asked, the sheriff said, his reply was yes, they had interviewed Rachel's boyfriend, "along with many other people who are close to Rachel. That is the way an investigation is conducted. We start with people in her close inner circle" and go from there.
"Together," Gahler concluded, "we will solve this crime and find this heinous coward who took Rachel Morin from her family and friends."
What is the latest on the Rachel Morin murder investigation?
Authorities encouraged anyone with information to come forward, though they also reminded people to be prudent when it came to discussing the case publicly, particularly online.
"If people are putting false information out there or guesses out there, coming up with their own theories of what happened and people are running with that, that can distract our investigation," Harford Sheriff's Col. William Davis told NBC affiliate WBAL on Aug. 11. "Because if people have leads, we're going to follow up on those leads, and we want our detectives focused on things that are actual facts and not things that are made up by other people."
Also on Aug. 11, the sheriff's office shared that detectives had identified and contacted five people who were walking their dogs on the trail between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. the night Morin was headed to the trail and may have been among the last to see her alive.
In the meantime, authorities have increased patrols along the Ma & Pa Trail, Sheriff Gahler telling WBAL, "Not knowing whether this was a targeted event specific to Rachel, we are going to say...be aware, be thinking there could be somebody out here and this is a random event."
County officials also acknowledged the clamor for cameras to be installed along the trail, a portion of which goes through a tunnel. "It's unfortunate that it takes a tragedy for us to recognize our vulnerabilities and address those," Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly told WBAL on Aug. 15.
"I want the trail to be used," he said. "I want it to remain the wonderful asset that it is for our community, and recognize in order to maintain that wonderful asset. We're going to have to put the money into putting the cameras there and maintaining an appropriate level of safety."
Is there a suspect in the Rachel Morin murder case?
The person responsible for Rachel's death "could be someone who came to learn that routine and knew where she might be at that time, or it could be a random person," Gahler told Fox News Digital on Aug. 8, noting that the victim led an active lifestyle and "it wasn't unusual for her to be out."
On Aug. 17, Col. Davis told reporters that DNA found at the Morin crime scene had been analyzed by Maryland State Police and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), where it matched evidence collected from a March home invasion in Los Angeles, during which a young girl was assaulted.
They had not yet identified the suspect, Davis said at a news conference, but they believed the figure seen on doorbell cam footage obtained by the LAPD from the house where the alleged assault occurred is their guy. So far, he explained, the DNA hadn't shown up in any other law enforcement database (from a prior arrest, etc.) and they were working with experts from the FBI crime lab to further analyze the sample.
The doorbell footage, which is posted on the Harford County Sheriff's social media accounts, shows a man wearing pants but no shirt (he appears to be carrying a piece of clothing) leaving through the front door of the house. From their analysis of the video and witness observations, Davis said, they were looking for a male of Hispanic descent in his early-to-mid-20s, height approximately 5-foot-9 and weighing about 160 pounds.
"We know nothing about him," Davis said, "other than he was in L.A. and committed that crime in March, and was here in August, and we believe him to be the murderer of Rachel Morin."
What has Rachel Morin's family said about her death?
"This was not an accidentally [sic] death, and she did not go willingly, and she deserves a funeral worthy of her beauty," sister Rebekah Morin wrote on a GoFundMe page she set up for funeral expenses and Rachel's kids, which as of Aug. 18 has raised more than $48,000. "If there are any remaining funds, they will go towards things her five children may need."
The family also planned a memorial walk on the Ma & Pa Trail for the morning of Aug. 19 "so we can grieve the tragic loss of a woman who was so full of life," Rebekah wrote on Facebook. "Please join us as we pray and mourn for our beloved Rachel."
Mom Patty Morin wrote on Facebook, per CBS News Baltimore, "If you have experienced the loss of a dear loved one, then you know how hard it can be to express the pain that you feel in your heart. When it's sudden and tragic, your mind looks for ways to cope. As a mom, I appreciate the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and the worldwide community that grieves with me for my young daughter. Thank you for caring. Truly."
A celebration of life for Rachel is scheduled for Aug. 27 at Greater Grace Church of Baltimore.
Those with information into Rachel's murder have been asked to contact the Harford County Sheriff's Office at (410) 836-7788 or via email at RMtips@HarfordSheriff.org.