A former Marine accused of strangling his girlfriend in 2016 was finally caught in Central America after spending six years on the run.
Raymond “RJ” McLeod, 37, had been dating Krystal Mitchell, 30, for just a few weeks when the couple from Phoenix, Arizona, took a trip to San Diego, California, to visit friends, Fox News reported. Mitchell was found dead in an apartment not long after, with signs of a struggle. Police determined that she had been seen last with McLeod and quickly issued an arrest warrant. McLeod, an avid bodybuilder, is 5-foot-11 and weighed 245 pounds at the time of Mitchell’s murder.
McLeod disappeared, however, and by December 2016, authorities in San Diego requested the U.S. Marshals help locate the fugitive. He became the first suspect to have a $50,000 reward for his capture while debuting on the U.S. Marshals’ Top 15 Most Wanted list.
“Raymond McLeod will be the first fugitive in history on our 15 Most Wanted list with an initial reward of up to $50,000,” U.S. Marshal Service Director Donald Washington said in a statement in 2021. “We want McLeod’s new status as a 15 Most Wanted fugitive and the $50,000 reward amount to be broadcasted far and wide. McLeod poses a significant threat to the public and must be brought to justice.”
Authorities suspected McLeod fled the U.S. through Mexico to Central America following Mitchell’s murder, with reported sightings in Belize and Guatemala over the years. U.S. Marshals also warned that he may have been using the name Matt or Mateo and may have grown a beard to disguise himself.
McLeod was arrested on Monday afternoon after U.S. Marshals received a tip saying he had been teaching English at a school 40 miles west of San Salvador, El Salvador, Fox reported.
Mitchell’s mother, Josephine Wentzel, a former detective, ended her retirement to help authorities find McLeod. After his capture, she praised the U.S. Marshals Task Force Chief Frankie Sanchez and deputy marshal Francisco Barajas for their “excellent work.”
“I have had faith and trust in them, and ever since meeting Francisco Barajas, I had full confidence that this day would come, and he would be the one to catch him,” she told Fox News. “I told him, ‘You are my hero. We are bonded for life.’”
Wentzel also called McLeod “arrogant” and “ruthless,” according to CBS 8. “He’s a charmer, and that’s the danger.”