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Text messages detail unraveling relationship between St. Petersburg teen and man accused of killing her

St. Petersburg police say Jacobee Flowers, 28, has been indicted for first-degree murder in the 2012 death of Morgan Martin, a pregnant 17-year-old who was wearing pajamas when she went missing outside her home four years ago. [Photo courtesy of St. Petersburg Police Department]
Published Jul. 6, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Jacobee Flowers pleaded with the 17-year-old girl he impregnated.

"U have ur hole life for this," he texted her, according to court records. "Don't do this to me."

Two months after that desperate exchange, police said, Flowers killed Morgan Martin in 2012. Just weeks before, they said, she had revealed to him that she was pregnant.

Flowers, then 24, was upset that Morgan wanted to go through with the pregnancy, according to an indictment for first-degree murder. He worried about facing criminal charges for having sex with a minor, the indictment said, and about ruining his romantic relationship with another woman.

He also told Morgan he already had three kids. At one point, police said, he offered a former classmate money to beat her up.

"Please Cobee," Morgan texted him May 18, 2012, asking him to stay with her. "Just Considerate It I Love You."

"Theres nothin to consider ...," he replied. " ... this will show how much u love me (because) I'm tellin u ... if u only think about u in this (we'll) never be the same."

The indictment, which led to Flowers's arrest four years after the pregnant teen's disappearance, offers a new look at a case that had vexed detectives and left the girl's family with agonizing uncertainty.

Morgan disappeared about 12:30 a.m. on July 25, 2012, police said, after leaving her home on 17th Ave. S in pajama pants and slippers.

The indictment reveals more details about what investigators believe happened that night:

Morgan left her house to talk to Flowers, who had worked a closing shift earlier at a Kentucky Fried Chicken on Seminole Boulevard. The two had exchanged calls that evening; Flowers used a new, secondary cell phone he had bought a couple of weeks before.

He made his first call from the phone, to Morgan, at 9:03 p.m. on July 24. Hours later, the teen's cell phone was turned off shortly after she left her house.

Detectives reviewed cell phone tower records to estimate Flowers' location. He went from the area around Morgan's house to his own home on 53rd Avenue N before moving about 1:20 a.m. toward the restaurant where he worked

Flowers had been in charge of setting the alarm at the restaurant after closing that day. He had always remembered to turn it on before, co-workers said, but he failed to that night.

Surveillance footage showed smoke inside the restaurant at 2:33 a.m. The next day an employee discovered that someone had set a fire in a walk-in cooler, then used a hose to wash the floor. Detectives said surveillance footage showed Flowers was at the restaurant at 2:49 a.m.

About 3:30 a.m., Flowers went to St. Petersburg again, detectives said, visiting the mother of two of his children, then returning to the area of the Kentucky Fried Chicken. He later went to Pasco County and drove back through Brandon using the Sunshine Skyway Bridge before returning home to St. Petersburg the next morning.

Authorities have not found Morgan's remains. The indictment does not explain how police believe Flowers killed her.

In the days after she was reported missing, investigators said, Flowers told different stories about his relationship with Morgan and his whereabouts the night she disappeared. He said they had never had intercourse and had not talked in weeks.

When detectives dug into Facebook messages between the two, they found talk of a romantic history and a picture of an ultrasound. Morgan told Flowers she was having a girl, and that she had chosen a name: Ja'Leah.

With inconsistent stories and little physical evidence, the case grew cold. Flowers was arrested on unrelated charges in the years after the 17-year-old's disappearance. He was in prison last week on charges of fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer when authorities announced the indictment.

Morgan's mother, Leah Martin, said though she was young, the 17-year-old girl was eager to have a baby. The thought of motherhood thrilled her. When she walked out of her house for the last time, police said, Morgan left behind her maternity paperwork, driver's license and debit card.

She told her sister not to lock the front door. She said she would be right back.

Contact Zachary T. Sampson at zsampson@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.

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