Valdosta Daily Times

February 7, 2013

Life in Prison

Man convicted of murder, rape in 2002 death

Quinten Plummer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A Florida man received a life plus 20 year sentence Wednesday in Lowndes County Superior Court for the rape and murder of a Kentucky woman who had stopped to rest in Lake Park on Halloween 2002.

It took roughly five years for investigators to obtain a DNA sample from 42-year-old Maurilio Masadiego Martinez, an immigrant who had been living in Lake Park under an assumed named with few identifying documents, according to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s detectives determined that DNA collected from Martinez matched evidence collected by the sheriff’s office during its probe into the death of 47-year-old Joy Morris, according to reports.

In 2009, Martinez was found to be living in Casselberry, Fla., and had been arrested there for offenses unrelated to this investigation, according to reports. In 2010, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the Casselberry Police Department led a joint inquiry into Morris’ death.

An arrest warrant was obtained for Martinez for the offenses of murder and rape, based on information gleaned from the joint investigation and the match in DNA samples, according to reports. Martinez was charged in the death on Feb. 8, 2010, and returned to Lowndes County.

Morris’ body was discovered on Friday Nov. 1, 2002, inside her vehicle, which was parked in a wooded area near a motel in the 6900 block of Lake Park’s Lake Park-Bellville Road, according to reports.

Morris, a Madisonville, Ky., native and escort driver, had just completed a business trip to West Palm Beach, Fla., and was headed north on the intersate to drive escort for a truck in Lowndes County, according to a 2010 report by The Times.

An investigation revealed that Morris was raped and strangled, according to reports, and court evidence indicated that the antenna wire from a cell-phone had been wrapped around Morris’ neck at least three times.

Martinez was found guilty Wednesday of both murder and rape after nearly an hour of jury deliberations. After the guilty verdicts were returned, Southern Circuit Judge James G. Tunison II sentenced Martinez to a life sentence plus 20 years, according to reports.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine said he hoped the verdict may provide some closure to the family and he praised the cooperative efforts of the Valdosta Police Department, the Casselberry, Fla. Police Department, the Seminole County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office, and the office of Southern District Attorney J. David Miller.