Four years ago, pregnant 17-year-old Morgan Martin went missing and was presumed dead.
Now, the man she said was her baby’s father has been charged with murder in her killing, police said.
Jacobee Flowers, 28, has been indicted for first-degree murder in the 2012 case of Morgan and her unborn child.
“Our investigation will show that Jacobee Flowers planned Morgan’s murder — he duped her into coming out and meeting him, he killed her and then he dumped the body,” St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway told reporters Monday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Holloway, however, did not provide a possible motive.
“He knew that she was pregnant,” Holloway said at the news conference, according to the newspaper. “That’s all I can say at this time.”
After midnight on July 25, 2012, Morgan, who was four months pregnant with her daughter “Jaliyah,” told her family members she was stepping outside their home to meet Flowers, according to news reports.
She was wearing her pajamas — a white tank top, gray sweatpants and pink fuzzy slippers, according to her missing children’s poster.
Morgan was never seen again.
And her body has never been found.
“She was mine,” her mother, Leah Martin, said at the news conference, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “She wasn’t his to take.”
Because Morgan disappeared in 2012, this case falls under a state law that permitted prosecutors to bring murder charges in the deaths of unborn children only when the fetuses were viable — or only when they could survive outside the womb, St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez told the Tampa Bay Times.
Two years later, Florida passed a law to permit prosecution at any stage of development.
According to the Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which passed in 2014:
Whoever commits an act that violates a provision of this code or commits a criminal offense defined by another statute and thereby causes the death of, or bodily injury to, an unborn child commits a separate offense if the provision or statute does not otherwise specifically provide a separate offense for such death or injury to an unborn child. … The punishment for a separate offense under this subsection is the same as the punishment provided under this code or other statute for that conduct had the injury or death occurred to the mother of the unborn child.
At least 37 other states have fetal homicide laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Colorado introduced a similar bill last year after a woman was accused of cutting into another woman’s womb and removing her baby — killing the baby and severely wounding the soon-to-be mother.
The Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser reported at the time:
The new bill, as introduced, would change the definition of “person” in the state’s homicide and assault statutes, including one considered by the prosecutors who charged Lane. Right now, that statute says that a “ ‘person’ when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who had been born and was alive at the time of the homicidal act.”
Cadman would change the definition to read that “ ‘person’ … means a human being and includes an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”
That bill was postponed indefinitely by the House Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs.
For months after Morgan’s 2012 disappearance, investigators tried in vain to find her. Flowers, who was 24 at the time, downplayed his relationship with the pregnant teenager, denied he was the father of her unborn child and denied he had knowledge of her disappearance, St. Petersburg police said this week in a statement.
Soon, the case turned cold.
It wasn’t until March 2015, when the police department put together a cold case unit, that Morgan’s case was revived, police said.
For more than a year, investigators reworked the case — re-interviewed witnesses and re-examined evidence, police said in the statement. On Thursday, a grand jury charged Flowers with Morgan’s murder.
“After they told him what he was going to be charged with he didn’t say anything,” Holloway, the police chief, told reporters, according to CBS affiliate WTSP. “He didn’t deny it. He just didn’t say a word.”
Authorities are still searching for her body — and the body of her unborn baby.
“We want to bring Morgan home and the baby home so the parents can put her to rest,” the police chief told NBC affiliate WFLA.
Morgan’s mother said she had “a pretty good idea” her daughter had been murdered but Flowers’s indictment helped bring her closure.
“She won’t be coming home, so that’s a little rough,” she added. “But it’s good to know that somebody’s going to be held accountable.”
Flowers was in police custody on charges in an unrelated felony case, police said; he is set to be moved next month to St. Petersburg.