Kaitlin Armstrong, who was convicted of killing a bike racer in Austin, was captured in Costa Rica after agents posted ads looking for a yoga instructor.
In an interview with 48 Hours, Deputy U.S. Marshals Damien Fernandez and Emir Perez said they flew to Costa Rica in June 2022 to track down Armstrong, who was a suspect in the murder of cyclist Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson.
Wilson, 25, was found fatally shot at her friend’s home on May 11, 2022, the day after she arrived in Austin to compete in the 157-mile Gravel Locos bicycle race.
Authorities suspected that Armstrong — who a friend testified was bitterly jealous of Wilson — targeted the cyclist, who briefly dated Armstrong’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Colin Strickland, during a split in the fall of 2021.
The day after the killing, the yoga instructor was arrested at her home on May 12 for a misdemeanour theft warrant — in which she allegedly had Botox injections at an Austin medical spa in 2018 and left without paying — and was questioned by police and released. The prosecutor said that the day after the interview, on May 13, Armstrong sold her Jeep at a South Austin CarMax dealership for $12,000.
Prosecutors said that the day after Armstrong sold her car to CarMax, she flew to Houston before boarding a Southwest flight to New York, where her sister lives. On May 18, Armstrong took United Airlines flight 1222 at 5:09 p.m. from Newark International Airport to San Jose, Costa Rica, with a ticket purchased in her sister’s name.
The deputy U.S. Marshals told 48 Hours that while they were in Costa Rica they received a tip that Armstrong might be in a quaint tourist town called Santa Teresa. But, once there, they had a hard time tracking her down. They decided to post ads looking for a yoga instructor to see if she would take the bait.
“We decided we were gonna put an ad out … or multiple ads for a yoga instructor and see — what would happen,” Perez told 48 Hours.
However, after they didn’t get a response, the Marshals returned to the U.S. Back in San Jose, they were about to board their flight when they got a response.
“We got a bite, somebody that, um, identified herself … as a yoga instructor and said they wanted to meet with us at a particular hostel … and we said … “This is, this is our chance!’ ” Perez remembered.
The two agents returned to Santa Teresa and began to scope out Don Jon’s hostel where Armstrong was staying under the alias “Ari.”
But, according to Perez, it wasn’t that easy to identify her. Armstrong had spent more than $6,000 on facial plastic surgery to alter her appearance.
“She looked like Kaitlin, but not 100 percent,” he said. “So I thought, well, how can I approach her or get close enough where I start asking questions where she doesn’t suspect something, So, I decided that I was gonna speak to her in Spanish. So I spoke to her in nothing but Spanish.”
“I got a little closer ’cause I saw that she was trying to get to Google Translate on her phone and she’d raised it up to me and I got even closer,” he added. “And I noticed that she had a bandage on her nose and possibly her lips were swollen. and I saw her eyes … The eyes are the exact same ones that I saw in the picture. And this is her 100 percent.”
With the help of local authorities, Armstrong was arrested and extradited to Austin where she was charged and later convicted of Wilson’s murder. In November, she was sentenced to 90 years in prison.