How the Perseverance of a Mom — Who Used to Be a Detective — Led to Fugitive's Arrest in Daughter's Killing

Investigators say that Josephine Wentzel's efforts were "instrumental" in leading authorities to Raymond McLeod

Josephine Funes Wentzel; Krystal Jaye Mitchell
Josephine Wentzel; Krystal Mitchell. Photo:

Authorities in California are crediting the determination of a grieving mother with the recent arrest of a former Marine accused of murdering the woman's 30-year-old daughter six years ago.

During a press conference on Friday, the U.S. Marshalls Office said that it was Josephine Wentzel's relentless quest for justice that led authorities to El Salvador, where Raymond McLeod was arrested on August 29.

McLeod, 37, had been wanted on a murder charge in connection with the death of his girlfriend — Wentzel's daughter, Krystal Mitchell.

The killing happened in 2016 in San Diego, where the Arizona couple had been visiting friends.

A statement from the San Diego County District Attorney's Office confirms Wentzel, who worked in Guam as a former police detective, "has been instrumental in helping authorities search for McLeod."

The statement adds "Wentzel has generated leads for law enforcement and helped spread word about the international manhunt on social media."

Raymond "RJ" McLeod was arrested after years on the run. He's accused of killing his girlfriend Krystal Mitchell
Raymond "RJ" McLeod, Krystal Mitchell. us marshall

ABC News reports the determined mother took classes on her own to learn how to use the Internet and social media to track people online.

Mom helps police find Phoenix fugitive accused of strangling her daughter to death
Josephine Wentzel. AZFamily 3TV and CBS 5 News/Youtube

"It's not about being a former detective," Wentzel told Good Morning America. "It's about being a mom. It's that mama bear. It's that mom determination that I gave birth to this child and, so help me God, I'm going to take care of this child until I die."

McLeod last week appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the murder charge he faces.

He is being held without bond.

McLeod and Mitchell were living in Phoenix in 2016 when they traveled to California for a vacation.

After Mitchell's death, authorities allege McLeod fled to Mexico.

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A warrant was issued for his arrest in June 2016.

McLeod was teaching English in El Salvador under an assumed name, say authorities.

Sightings were reported in Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala, authorities say.

"It was years of hard work, and to be honest with you, I wasn't sure," Wentzel told GMA. "The most important thing is to get their faces out in public."

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