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Kaitlin Armstrong captured in Costa Rica after 43-day fugitive hunt in connection to Moriah Wilson death

Kaitlin Marie Armstrong
Kaitlin Marie Armstrong (Image credit: U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force)

The U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force has confirmed that authorities have located and apprehended homicide suspect Kaitlin Marie Armstrong in Costa Rica. 

Armstrong was wanted on first-degree murder felony charges in connection with the shooting death of Moriah Wilson on May 11 in Austin, Texas. 

The 43-day fugitive investigation ended at a Santa Teresa Beach hostel in Costa Rica after U.S. Marshals Office of International Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, working with authorities in Costa Rica, located and arrested Armstrong on June 29 at a hostel on Santa Teresa Beach in Provincia de Puntarenas.

Authorities confirmed that Armstrong would be deported and returned to the US.

"Armstrong is currently detained and in custody with Costa Rica Officials pending deportation back to the US," Deputy U.S. Marshal Brandon Filla told Cyclingnews. "There is no timeline on the deportation of Armstrong at this time. The next step is to await information from Costa Rica Officials on a deportation date. Once Armstrong can be deported … U.S. Marshals will await to accept her in the United States. Armstrong will then be extradited to Austin, Texas."

According to a press statement sent to Cyclingnews, members of the U.S. Marshals-led Lone Star Fugitive Task Force and Homeland Security Investigations discovered that Armstrong used a fraudulent passport to board United Airlines Flight 1222 from Newark International Airport at 5:09 p.m. EST on May 18, arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica, at 8:27 p.m. EST the same day.

"The Marshals Service elevated the Kaitlin Armstrong investigation to major case status early in this investigation, which likely played a key role in her capture after a 43-day run," said U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas Susan Pamerleau. 

"This is an example of combining the resources of local, state, federal and international authorities to apprehend a violent fugitive, bring an end to that run and hopefully a sense of closure to the victim's family."

U.S. Marshals assisted the Austin Police Department (APD) in the homicide investigation with a separate fugitive investigation in the search for Armstrong that has lasted more than a month.

U.S. Marshals had tracked Armstrong at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on May 14, three days after the shooting death of Wilson. They believe she then boarded a flight to Houston Hobby Airport, followed by a connecting flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York. 

They suggested she was dropped off at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on May 18, a day after the APD obtained a warrant for her arrest. 

However, a search of outbound flights at this airport revealed no reservations had been made under the name Kaitlin Marie Armstrong. At this point, investigators obtained from the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas another warrant for Armstrong for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Authorities have now confirmed that she had fraudulently used a passport to board a flight to Costa Rica. Filla told Cyclingnews that it is unclear at this time how Armstrong obtained the passport that she fraudulently used, but she continued to use the alias in Costa Rica. Filla did not state the name of the owner of the passport due to the ongoing homicide investigation.

"That passport was a passport that was issued to someone else that was a very close physical description, that she could really use because she looked similar to that individual, so that was the fraudulent use of it. It [the passport] wasn't fraudulent in itself because it was issued to a specific individual, but she used it to board that flight a day after she knew that there was a warrant of her arrest," he said.

"All agencies (above) assisted at different phases of the investigation. State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) assisted with the passport information," he said.

In a report on Inside Edition (opens in new tab), two passports were located in a locker at the location following Armstrong's arrest; one belonging to Armstrong and the other belonging to a family member, along with a $6,350 receipt for cosmetic surgery under another name.

In a FOX 7 (opens in new tab) new conference, Filla confirmed that Armstrong had changed her physical appearance by cutting her hair and changing her hair colour to dark brown. "She had a bandage over her nose area, where she claimed that she had gotten into a surfboard incident recently."

Kaitlin Armstrong apprehended in Costa Rica

Kaitlin Armstrong apprehended in Costa Rica (Image credit: Costa Rican news outlet Teletica.com)

During the investigation, authorities recently located the black Jeep Grand Cherokee believed to have been owned by Armstrong in connection with the death of Wilson. The task force learned that Armstrong sold the vehicle on May 13 to a CarMax dealership in south Austin for $12,200 US dollars, the day before she was believed to have fled Austin, Texas.

Authorities had elevated the case to a "major case" and combined with an anonymous donation, offered $21,000 for information leading to the arrest of Armstrong. 

Filla said in the conference that the U.S. Marshals had over 80 tips in the case, some gave background but nothing was specific to her location in Costa Rica. "It was old-fashioned law enforcement tactics and techniques that were used to communicate information to foreign officials, to facilitate that type of arrest, where she is detained on an immigration law violation when she used that fraudulent passport to enter Costa Rica."

Filla confirmed that Armstrong is facing charges in the homicide investigation arrest warrant with the APD into the death of Wilson, along with federal warrant for the unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He confirmed that, at this time, there has been no other person taken into custody in the pursuit of Armstrong.

"I don't know how much planning she had, but I will say that based on what we know about this investigation now, and what we have learned from the 43-day manhunt of Kaitlin Armstrong is that she was able to quickly facilitate means to get out of the United States."

Wilson's family released a statement following Armstrong's arrest, saying, "We are relieved that this phase of uncertainty is behind us, and we trust that justice will prevail."

Cyclingnews has pieced together a timeline of how authorities believe this crime allegedly unfolded, based on legal documents. Cyclingnews will provide additional updates as more information becomes available by authorities throughout this investigation.

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Kirsten Frattini

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.