The killing of Rachel Morin, a mother of five who liked to walk the trail in Bel Air where her body was found, has been a hot topic online and in national media ever since the notice that she was missing was posted on social media just over a week ago.
Morin, 37, was reported missing by her boyfriend Aug. 5, hours after she went for a walk on the Ma & Pa Trail. Her body was found the next day about a mile from the trailhead. The Harford County Sheriff’s Office is leading a homicide investigation.
In hundreds of posts, reposts and comments on the Facebook page of the sheriff’s office, which made the first post about her disappearance Aug. 5, local residents expressed a range of sentiments, from concern to speculation. Within hours, the sheriff’s office responded to the posts, discouraging people from sharing misinformation and advising anyone with a tip on the case to contact their office.
Yet, the rumors and unverified content are still being posted in several Facebook groups about Harford County and on other social media platforms, most notably YouTube and Tik Tok. The case has drawn considerable attention from people outside Maryland, and that has Harford County residents, including Morin’s sister, Rebekah, fighting back online.
A Facebook group, Justice for Rachel Morin, A True Crime Discussion Group, sprang up over the weekend, with YouTube videos on the case and stories from Fox News that compare Morin’s homicide to other female jogger deaths that have occurred nationally. The group is administered by a page called Dejavu Crime Crew based in Las Vegas, which follows other crimes on its various social media platforms.
Other true crime pages and news-style websites outside Maryland are also posting on the Morin case, running such salacious headlines as, “Killed by a spurned lover or suitor?”.
Several news outlets have run with versions of the story, claiming to have key information from anonymous sources. The New York Post said on its website Friday that they talked to a source “close to” the tanning salon that Rachel Morin frequented and said they had information on Morin’s dating life, including that she was on multiple dating sites in the weeks before her death.
The publication posted photos of Morin in a bikini and other body-hugging outfits, and with her boyfriend, Richard Tobin, that were from their Facebook pages. Late last week, Morin’s page was taken down and Tobin has put his page on private access.
The tragedy has also been picked up by well-known national media outlets including the TV newsmagazine “Inside Edition,” People Magazine, Investigation Discovery and CBS News’ long-running crime show, “48 Hours.”
TV legal commentator Nancy Grace, known for her boisterous style of true crime coverage and who runs the website crimeonline.com, has also been following the case, labeling Morin “hiker mom” in her appearances on Fox Nation. The topic was also featured in the “Crime Stories with Nancy Grace” podcast Friday, which aired on iHeart Radio and Sirius XM.
“What is it about this case in particular that [it] is now all over the country?” asked Jodie Otte of Norrisville in a Facebook post Friday. “We were kind of surprised by the media involvement.”
Other Harford County residents like Angie Becker are posting their outrage at all of the chatter.
“It just makes me sick to my stomach to see all the comments and speculations,” Becker wrote in a Saturday post. “…To keep pouring salt in the wounds of a grieving family and friends, is completely disgusting and unacceptable. … Although social media can, in some cases, be beneficial, it can also be so destructive.”
Becker said people are trying to be “internet commandos” instead of going to the authorities with whatever information they may have.
Hundreds of leads have come into the sheriff’s office and investigators have created an email address specifically for tips and information on Morin’s case, RMtips@harfordsheriff.org.
On Thursday, Rebekah Morin posted an “open letter” from her mother, Patty. Patty Morin thanked the public for “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.”
She said that her family is planning a public Celebration of Life service, but asked in the meantime, that her family have space to grieve.
On Saturday, Rebekah Morin announced that the family is organizing its own walk in memory of Rachel. The walk will be held Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Williams Street trailhead on the Ma & Pa Trail, where Rachel Morin went missing and where her body was found.
Rebekah Morin also said the family held a private walk on the trail on Aug. 10, two days after Harford County Council member Jessica Boyle-Tsottles organized a community walk on the trail. Boyle-Tsottles was criticized for announcing that the walk was in Rachel Morin’s name — Rebekah Morin said the family had not been consulted and was not involved — and eventually took Rachel’s name off the flyer.
The Morin family posted black-and-white photos of Rachel on the trees along the walk.
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