Migrant Worker Sentenced to Life for Murder of Lowndes County Woman

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Lowndes County Sheriff's Office Release

Lowndes County, GA, February 6, 2013 - On Friday, November 1, 2002 the deceased body of Joy Morris was found in her vehicle at 6972 Lake Park Bellville Road in Lake Park. An investigation revealed that Joy Morris died as the result of strangulation.

Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office conducted a number of interviews but developed few leads until 2007 when a potential match to a DNA sample was obtained.

Detectives with the Valdosta Police Department had obtained a sample from Maurilio Martinez which when tested was found to be a match to DNA collected during the Sheriff’s Office investigation.

During additional investigative efforts, investigators learned that Maurilio Martinez was a migrant worker and had previously worked in the Lake Park area.

In late 2009 Maurilio Martinez was found to be living in Casselberry, Florida and had been arrested there for offenses unrelated to this investigation.

In early 2010 investigators from the Sheriff’s Office worked closely with detectives from the Casselberry Police Department conducting interviews and collecting evidence.

Based on information learned during those efforts and the match in DNA samples an arrest warrant was obtained for Maurilio Martinez for the offenses of murder and rape. Maurilio Martinez was arrested on February 8, 2010 and returned to Lowndes County.

The case was presented at trial this week by the Office of the District Attorney J. David Miller. Following only 55 minutes of jury deliberations, Martinez was found guilty of both murder and rape.

Lowndes County Superior Court Judge James G. Tunison, II sentenced Martinez to a life sentence plus 25 years.

Sheriff Prine praised the cooperative efforts of the multiple departments including the Valdosta Police Department, Casselberry, Florida Police Department, the Seminole County, Florida Sheriff’s Office and the Office of the District Attorney, J. David Miller.

Sheriff Prine also stated that he was hopeful that this verdict may provide some closure to the family.

Maurilio Martinez is currently forty two {42} years old and at the time of his arrest lived at an address in Casselberry, Florida.

Updated: 3/26

Maurilio Martinez was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Lowndes County Superior Court for the rape and malice murder of Joy Morris in 2002.

She was passing through Lake Park, Georgia on her way back home when she was murdered.

Morris was found raped and strangled in her car behind a motel.

Her husband, Woody Morris and his new wife, Brenda drove down from Kentucky when they heard justice was being served.

"I was told they were the best investigating team in the country and that they would bring him to justice," said Woody Morris. "It might take a while but they would get him here and they did."

"After so long a time, you don't even talk to each other anymore about it because you just keep reopening wounds," said Woody's wife Brenda while she held his hand. "But then when they finally found the one you're looking for, then you want to talk again."

The case was cold for almost eight years until a DNA sample from Martinez came back as a match to evidence found at the crime scene.

has been indicted by a grand jury . ...

Investigators said it was a difficult case.

47-year old Joy Morris made a stop in Lake Park, Georgia on her way back home to Kentucky.

She didn't have any local ties and it seemed neither did her murderer.

Detectives had bags of evidence from the crime scene behind the former Best Western along I-75.

They said she was strangled and sexually assaulted but all of her belongings were in tact.

Her body was left in her car behind the motel but her killer was no where to be found.

The case soon went cold.

Capt. Wanda Edwards from the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office said, "We never stop working. We don't ever give up we don't ever stop until there's absolutely nothing left to do."

Investigators saw a glimmer of hope in 2008. A migrant worker, Maurilio Martinez was interviewed by Valdosta Police about a different rape case. He gave detectives a DNA sample, and a lead.

The information went into a national database. It also held the DNA evidence collected at the crime scene in Lake Park years earlier. Captain Edwards got the call she'd been waiting on for years. The two samples matched.

"It's awesome, there's nothing in the world like it," said Edwards. "To be able to tell them that we've made an arrest and that we've got the right guy there's nothing else like that. That's what makes this job good to do."

Her husband at the time, Woody Morris, said "I know Wanda put in a lot of work getting everything in. It's good to know somebody is going to pay for this."

Martinez wasn't arrested in 2008 when investigators first found out the DNA matched because he'd already skipped town.

It wasn't until a few months ago when he was stopped for traffic violations in Casselberry, Florida, that police could get him into custody.

He's now at the Lowndes County jail charged with murder.