It has been nearly a decade since Morgan Martin walked out the front door of her St. Petersburg home in her pajamas and told her sister she’d be back soon.
The pregnant 17-year-old never returned. About a year after she went missing, police reclassified her case from a missing persons case to a homicide.
It wasn’t until 2016 that a grand jury indicted a suspect in Martin’s killing — now 34-year-old Jacobee Flowers, the man who Martin said fathered her child.
Flowers pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge earlier this month. Martin’s body has yet to be found. However, authorities believe her remains are in Pike County, Ala., after Flowers agreed to provide information in exchange for the possibility of a shorter sentence.
Flowers is scheduled to be sentenced today at 1:30 p.m. in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court. He faces 25 years in prison if Martin’s body is found and 40 years if she is not located.
So far, there have been no reports that authorities have located Martin’s body, even after law enforcement transported Flowers to Alabama to guide them in their search. Prosecutors on Wednesday declined to discuss further details surrounding the search, citing the ongoing investigation.
Text messages from around the time of Martin’s 2012 disappearance revealed the strained relationship between Martin and Flowers. He begged her not to have the baby, saying it could unravel his existing romantic relationship with another woman. Flowers, who was 24 at the time, also told her he worried about facing criminal charges for having sex with a minor.
But Martin was already planning her shopping lists and had gotten ultrasounds. She chose a name for the little girl on the way: Ja’Leah. The night she disappeared, Martin left the house to speak with Flowers.
During the investigation, detectives used cell phone tower records to track Flowers’ movements on the night Martin went missing.
Flowers drove to the area around Martin’s home, then went to his home that night, according to court documents, before going to a restaurant on Seminole Boulevard where he had worked the closing shift. Afterward, he visited the mother of two of his other children in St. Petersburg, before returning again to the restaurant, according to court documents. Flowers then made a loop throughout Tampa Bay, driving up to Pasco County, then over to Brandon and returning to St. Petersburg by way of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
The investigation was eventually assigned to the St. Petersburg Police cold case squad, who gathered the evidence used to indict Flowers.
Martin’s mother, Leah Martin, had already begun to accept that her daughter would likely never return. But Flowers’ arrest brought some sense of closure, she said.
“She won’t be coming home, so that’s a little rough,” Leah Martin said in 2016. “But it’s good to know that somebody’s going to be held accountable.”