Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Coast-to-Coast Killer

Hiking Toward a Nightmare
By Robert A. Waters

On August 8, 2023, the Baltimore Sun reported "police have opened a homicide investigation after a dead body, believed to be a woman recently reported missing, was found Sunday afternoon near a popular trail in Bel Air (Maryland)..."

Rachel Hannah Morin, 37, had been reported missing on August 6. A mother of five, Rachel was a fitness enthusiast. Late in the afternoon, she drove to the Maryland and Pennsylvania Trail (also called the Ma-Pa Trail) and began jogging through the heavily forested park. When she failed to return home, her boyfriend, Richard Tobin, reported her missing.

The next morning, a tracker named Michael Gabriszeski, with the help of his daughter, Cynthia, found Rachel's body in a drainage tunnel about 70 yards off the trail. Although this information had not yet been released by authorities, Gabriszeski told Daily Mail that Rachel "was laying on her back, fully naked, and she had brutal head looked like her head had been smashed in with a rock." A blood trail leading to the tunnel helped Gabriszeski find the body.

WBALTV confirmed the tracker's account, reporting that "Martinez-Hernandez laid in wait for Morin as she was out for a jog. Prosecutors said he then attacked and dragged her through the woods to a drainage ditch tunnel. The medical examiner found 10-15 head wounds, and the report indicated Morin died from blunt force trauma and strangulation."

From the start, this case had the feel of a stranger-on-stranger crime. The Harford County district attorney told reporters "it was the most brutal and violent offense that has ever happened in Harford County."

Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler quickly called in the FBI for assistance. The killer had left DNA, so investigators obtained a genetic profile and entered it into CODIS, the FBI databank. 

They quickly got a hit.

In Los Angeles, 2,657 miles from Harford County, a mother and her nine-year-old daughter had managed to survive a violent home invasion. An unidentified Hispanic male broke into the home and sexually assaulted the two. Police speculated he would likely have murdered them, but another member of the household interrupted the attack. Doorbell camera footage recorded the intruder fleeing the home. After LAPD entered the killer's DNA profile into CODIS, they got the call from Harford County.

It took ten months, but, using genetic genealogy, investigators determined the suspect to be Victor Martinez Hernandez. According to Daily Mail, "Hernandez had illegally crossed the southern border in February 2023 after he also allegedly murdered another woman in El Salvador a month earlier."

Law enforcement officers gave reporters a timeline of the alleged crimes of Hernandez. According to police, Hernandez murdered the El Salvador woman in January. In March, investigators claim he assaulted the mother and daughter in California. Then in August, his DNA profile matched that of the rapist and killer of Rachel in Maryland.

FBI agent Bill DelBango informed reporters that "our investigative genetic genealogy team in Baltimore worked countless hours to identify the suspect by using crime scene DNA and tracing that DNA to potential family members."  

In June, 2024, cops captured Hernandez in a bar in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

He has been extradited back to Maryland.

So how many other victims has Hernandez assaulted or murdered? A reputed gang member, he had no problem traveling the length of the United States more than once in a ten-month period. Where did he obtain funds to travel? Why is our border wide open to unvetted criminals and terrorists? At least ten million known illegal aliens from every country in the world have come unimpeded into our country since 2020. There are likely millions more "getaways," (i.e., unknown migrants).

Why is Rachel Morin dead? Why isn't she living her normal life today? Why is her family grieving her untimely death?

At a press conference, Sheriff Gahler echoed the thoughts of millions of Americans. "Victor Hernandez," he said, "did not come to this country to make a better life for him or his family, he came here to escape the crimes he committed in El Salvador. He came here to murder Rachel and, God willing, no one else. But that should never have been allowed to happen." (NOTE: my italics)

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

9-1-1 Calls, Bodycam Footage, and Arrest Video in Julian Wood Murder

Bionca Ellis has been arrested for the stabbing of Margot Wood, 37, and the murder of her three-year-old son, Julian Wood.

This dramatic video from Law & Crime Network shows the scene outside Giant Eagle store in North Olmsted, Ohio seconds after the attack. The murder seems to be yet another random crime. The video lasts for 21 minutes.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Murder in Micanopy

 Pearle Bartley
55 Years Later, Pearle Bartley's Murder is still Unsolved

By Robert A. Waters

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), there are at least 350,000 unsolved murders in America. In Florida, 20,000 cases have gone cold. Florida's clearance rate on murders is the national average, about 66%, meaning one-third of murders in the state are still open. I find those numbers staggering. How many killers live among us? In 1969, a 72-year-old store owner met a gruesome death in a historic central Florida town. There isn't a great deal of information about the case, but here's what is known.

Micanopy, named after a Seminole chieftain, was founded in 1821. It is the oldest inland town in the state. During the Seminole Indian wars, many residents holed up in Fort Defiance, located near the town. In 1836, Seminole chief Osceola unsuccessfully attacked the fort. After a battle lasting a little more than an hour, Osceola retreated. More soldiers in Fort Defiance died of malaria than fighting Indians. Major J. F. Hieleman, who led the counter-attack on Osceola, perished from the disease a few days after the battle.

In 1969, Micanopy had a population of about 750. Pearle Bartley, born in 1897, owned a small general store there. Called "Pearle's Place," she resided alone in a home attached to the store. On October 29, two customers walked into the business and found her lying on the floor. She'd been strangled to death and money was missing from the cash drawer.

Pearle's granddaughter, Marci Buchanan, said, "She was a very caring, gentle, docile person. She would have given anybody anything. So it just really shocked our family she was murdered like that." Marci remembers Pearle playing the "Missouri Waltz" on the piano. She told reporters her grandmother taught her to "tend a garden and crochet."

Micanopy lies about 12 miles south of Gainesville and 26 miles north of Ocala. Today it still has a population of less than 1,000. Canopied by hundreds of huge oak trees, the village is known for its eclectic mix of stores that sell vintage books, art, crafts, rare jewelry, music, and antiques. Many of the businesses are located in 19th century-era  buildings (see picture below). The town has no police force, so the Alachua County Sheriff's Office investigates any major criminal activity in the area.

After the murder, Alachua County homicide investigator Kevin Allen said deputies set up roadblocks to question drivers coming into or going out of Micanopy. While canvassing the area, many residents had noticed "that there was a blue or black motorcycle at or around the scene at the time of the homicide." No local citizen was known to own such a motorcycle.

Decades after the murder, two suspects emerged. Georgia serial killer Carlton Gary (pictured below) resided in Gainesville at the time of the murder. Pearle fit the killer's profile--he enjoyed strangling elderly white women to death while raping them. (Investigators have never said whether Pearle was sexually assaulted.)

A fingerprint found at the crime scene did not match Gary. Detective Allen spoke with Gary while he was on death row and said "he made admissions to almost every crime he had committed including robberies and burglaries, but he said he was not involved with any sexual murders of elderly females in Georgia or the state of Florida." On March 15, 2018, the killer was executed for the rapes and murders of three women in Georgia.

The fingerprint had been lifted off a Coca Cola cooler that sat near the body of Pearle. It came back to a "hustler and con-man" named Austin Felker. According to Allen, Felker had recently moved to Florida and "was the new owner of a blue and black motorcycle." But he had no history of violence. Was he the killer or just a customer? It's likely no one will ever know since he died many years ago.

The murder of Pearle Bartley is still being investigated. It speaks highly of Detective Allen and others who won't let the coldest of cases rest.