Leah Martin shouted through tears at the man who killed her pregnant teen daughter nearly a decade ago.
“I hope that every day that you sleep, you have to see her,” she told Jacobee Flowers, 34, in court Thursday. “Do you understand me? I hope you see her face and the child that you killed. You didn’t only kill my child, you killed your own.”
Morgan Martin was 17 when she went missing in 2012. She was four months pregnant and said Flowers was the father. She left her house in pajamas to talk with him on a July night. She never returned and her body has not been found.
Flowers was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday after he had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier this month and agreed to tell police where he had dumped Martin’s body. He told them it was in a field in Alabama, and he was even taken to Alabama this week to point out the exact location.
Had the body been found, Flowers would have received a 25-year sentence. But without a body, he would get the 40 years.
St. Petersburg Police Maj. David Gerardo said on Thursday that police exhausted all options searching for the body in Alabama, but will resume a search if any new information emerges.
Gerardo was unable to provide further details about why Flowers brought Martin to Alabama, saying investigators’ discussions with Flowers did not include questions about why she was taken there. It’s also not clear how Martin was killed.
In court Thursday, Flowers apologized to everyone he had hurt, specifically addressing the Martin family. He said he knows even a 40-year sentence can’t make up for what they have suffered.
“I want you all to know that I am a human being. I’m not a monster, despite what you may think,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by, in the last 10 years, that I haven’t felt the deepest level of regret.”
Martin’s missing persons case was reclassified as a homicide about a year after her disappearance, and Flowers remained a person of interest throughout the investigation until he was indicted by a grand jury in 2016.
The St. Petersburg Police Department’s cold case squad had taken up the investigation and found that, in text messages, Flowers begged Martin not to keep the baby. Flowers, who was 24 at the time, worried he could face criminal charges for having sex with a minor and also expressed concerns about how the child would impact his relationship with another woman, according to court documents.
Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines
Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Investigators also used cell phone records to track Flowers’ movements on the night of Martin’s disappearance. He went to the area where Martin’s house was located before returning to his home and then to the KFC restaurant where he worked.
According to court records, Flowers left the KFC, visited the mother of two of his other children and returned to the KFC. He then made a loop throughout Tampa Bay, driving up to Pasco County before heading to Brandon and then returning to St. Petersburg by way of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
In a news conference after the sentencing, Leah Martin said 40 years isn’t enough prison time for Flowers.
But she takes some comfort in knowing that he, too, will not be present for his children’s milestones as he serves his sentence, just as she missed out on so many important days with her daughter.
“His kids will be grown,” she said. “He’ll miss it all. And he deserves it. He don’t deserve to get to be with his kids either.”
She thanked everyone who helped with her daughter’s case. She said she hopes her daughter’s body will be found one day.
“I’d love to take her home,” she said. “But I don’t know if it’ll ever be closure.”