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Kaitlin Armstrong killed bicycle owner ‘Mo’ Wilson in a match of jealousy — then led officers on a global manhunt

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Within the weeks after she fatally shot an elite bicycle owner in Texas, Kaitlin Armstrong led authorities on a manhunt that spanned hundreds of miles, crossed worldwide borders and practically ended with authorities deflated and empty-handed.

Finally Armstrong was caught and, in November, she was discovered responsible of capturing Moriah “Mo” Wilson, 25, 3 times in a jealousy-fueled rage and sentenced to 90 years in jail.

That is the account of Armstrong’s escape — and seize — as informed by the investigators who tracked her from Austin to the Costa Rican seashore city the place an uncommon mixture of deception and yoga lastly led to her apprehension.

For extra on the dying of Moriah “Mo” Wilson, tune in to “The Evening Time Stopped” on Dateline att 9 ET/8 CT tonight.

Might 12: The homicide of a rising athlete 

In the future after Wilson, a rising star within the more and more in style sport of gravel racing, was discovered with gunshot wounds within the Austin residence the place she had been staying for a contest, investigators questioned Colin Strickland, the professional bicycle owner with whom Wilson had beforehand been concerned. 

Strickland informed authorities he’d frolicked with Wilson the day earlier than: They’d shared a meal and gone for a swim earlier than he dropped her off, in response to a transcript of the interview obtained by “Dateline.”

Colin Strickland rides in West Texas in 2021.Ross Morales / Purple Bull by way of AP Photos

Strickland informed investigators that he’d been with Armstrong, 36, for 3 years, however he’d gotten along with Wilson after he and Armstrong briefly ended their relationship in fall 2021, in response to the transcript. Wilson, he stated, was now listed below a unique identify in his cellphone — a reality he attributed to his “proper to have a friendship with this particular person with out having, like, fixed strife.”

“He did that as a result of he knew his girlfriend Kaitlin had gone by his cellphone up to now,” Richard Spitler, the Austin murder detective who led the investigation into Wilson’s killing, informed “Dateline. “He didn’t wanna begin any points, any drama.”

Safety video reviewed by Austin police confirmed a black SUV close to the residence the place Wilson was killed across the time of her dying, and Spitler noticed what gave the impression to be the identical car parked in Strickland’s driveway.

When Spitler requested Strickland about it, he stated the car belonged to Armstrong. Strickland refused to drive it, Spitler recalled him saying, as a result of it was a “girly automotive.” 

Anna Moriah "Mo" Wilson.
Anna Moriah “Mo” Wilson.Courtesy Wilson household

On the time, Spitler wasn’t certain what to make of the declare, although authorities later concluded Strickland was not concerned in Wilson’s homicide, and he has not been accused of any crime. (Strickland declined to talk to “Dateline,” however in a press release launched days after the killing, he stated there was “no technique to adequately specific the remorse and torture I really feel about my proximity to this horrible crime.”)

Believing she was a possible particular person of curiosity within the killing, authorities arrested Armstrong on an impressive misdemeanor warrant, one other Austin detective, Jonathan Riley, informed “Dateline.” She wasn’t in custody lengthy earlier than authorities mistakenly concluded there was a discrepancy in her warrant, Riley stated, and informed her she wasn’t below arrest in spite of everything.

Armstrong remained on the division, nevertheless, and in an interview with a detective, denied figuring out that Strickland had seen Wilson whereas she was on the town. When the detective requested if there have been points between her and Wilson, Armstrong responded: “I’m undecided precisely what you imply or what info you’d like,” in response to a transcript of the interview.

When the detective bluffed, telling Armstrong falsely that Strickland had described her as upset over the matter, she responded: “That’s not correct.”

When the detective requested Armstrong why her SUV had been close to the residence the place Wilson was staying, Armstrong didn’t deny that the car was hers, in response to the transcript. Nor did she provide any clarification as to why it was there.

When the detective pressed her, Armstrong stated: “I want to depart, if I’m free to go away.”

Might 17: ‘She’s gone’

Within the days after Wilson’s killing, tipsters alerted authorities to what Spitler described as a possible motive: Armstrong had been livid over Strickland’s relationship with Wilson. 

One stated that Armstrong known as Wilson so many instances that she had blocked her quantity, in response to an affidavit in assist of an arrest warrant for Armstrong. On the final name, Armstrong warned her to keep away from Strickland, the warrant says. One other tipster stated Armstrong was so enraged that she was “shaking in anger” and threatened to kill Wilson.

After a ballistics evaluation confirmed what Spitler described as a “excessive chance” match between the gun used to kill Wilson and a Sig Sauer pistol found throughout a search of Armstrong and Strickland’s house, authorities issued the warrant accusing Armstrong of first-degree homicide.

Kaitlin Armstrong leaves the courtroom
Kaitlin Armstrong after receiving a sentence of 90 years in jail final November in Austin for the homicide of Anna Moriah Wilson.Mikala Compton / American-Statesman by way of AP, Pool file

However by Might 17, when that warrant was issued, Armstrong’s social media had been erased, the warrant says. Strickland hadn’t talked together with her for the reason that day after her interview with police, and license plate readers across the metropolis hadn’t captured her SUV touring wherever, Spitler informed “Dateline.”

“We’ve got plenty of addresses that we’re going to get eyes on and test to see if we see her,” recalled Riley, who additionally serves on the Lone Star Fugitive Process Pressure. “Thus far, on the 18th, we’re not discovering something.”

“We are able to’t discover her,” Spitler added. “She’s gone.”

Might 25: Fleeing the nation on a stolen passport

Investigators ultimately discovered that Armstrong had traveled to New York, Riley stated. Initially, they didn’t know the way she’d gotten there, he stated, although they believed she’d doubtless flown given how far she’d gotten in a comparatively quick period of time.

On Might 25, the Lone Star Fugitive Process Pressure launched a video of Armstrong inside Austin-Bergstrom Worldwide Airport. Eleven days earlier, the duty pressure stated, she’d taken a New York Metropolis-bound flight by way of Houston.

The quick clip confirmed Armstrong sporting a black face masks and a jean jacket. A yoga mat was tucked into her backpack. 

Riley recalled discovering the clue that helped authorities be taught the place Armstrong had doubtless traveled subsequent. Throughout a search of her house, authorities discovered — and photographed — a passport card that belonged to Armstrong’s sister, Christine, who lives in New York, Riley informed “Dateline.” 

Riley recalled seeing the photograph, so he requested a colleague with the Division of Homeland Safety to test if anybody together with her identify had traveled internationally. 

“And inside about 10 or quarter-hour of reaching out to him, he bought again to me and confirmed that a Christine Armstrong with the identical date of beginning had traveled from Newark to San Jose, Costa Rica, on the 18th on a one-way flight,” Riley recalled. 

Investigators with the Marshals Service discovered Christine at her house in upstate New York. She had no thought the place her passport was, Spitler recalled Christine telling authorities, however Kaitlin had just lately visited, and Christine had dropped her off on the airport for what she believed was a return flight to Austin. (Christine Armstrong declined to talk to “Dateline.” She has not been accused of a criminal offense in connection together with her sister’s escape.)

However with affirmation that somebody utilizing Christine’s passport had left the nation, investigators turned their consideration to Costa Rica. Riley, who had been on the duty pressure for 5 years at that time, stated the information made him really feel like a rookie over again, as a result of fugitives hardly ever journey that removed from house.

“This simply bought an entire lot extra attention-grabbing and much more troublesome,” he recalled pondering on the time.

June 20: The hunt in Costa Rica 

Earlier than leaving for Costa Rica, the 2 U.S. Marshals deputies tasked with discovering Armstrong first needed to determine why she could have traveled there. One of many likeliest connections they might give you was one in every of her obvious passions — yoga — one of many deputies, Damian Fernandez, informed “Dateline.” 

By the point Fernandez and one other deputy, Emir Perez, arrived within the Central American nation on June 20, they discovered that she was reserving totally different hostels in several areas utilizing aliases — generally she glided by Beth, generally Allison — after which not exhibiting up. The deputies weren’t certain why, Fernandez stated, however she was a no-show on the handful of places they’d related her to.

They’d additionally discovered that an individual matching her description had taken a few yoga courses in Jaco, a small coastal city a few hours southwest of San Jose, the nation’s capital, Fernandez stated. Safety video obtained by native police and offered to the U.S. Embassy’s diplomatic safety service confirmed she’d been there. 

However by the point the deputies arrived, Fernandez stated, Armstrong had already left. 

So their staff — which included investigators from the U.S. Embassy — cut up in two and traveled a number of hours to Santa Teresa, the small city they believed was her subsequent vacation spot.

There, the deputies — dressed like vacationers — scoured the seashore, whereas one other investigator attended yoga classes and a meditation class, they stated. However Santa Teresa was full of girls who appeared like Armstrong, Fernandez stated, and the pair was making an attempt to keep away from coming off as stalkers.

“It’s troublesome to do what we have been doing down there since you don’t wanna appear like a creep,” Fernandez stated.   

Authorities within the U.S. and Costa Rica hadn’t publicized their perception that Armstrong was in Central America, so the investigators got here up with a canopy story — they have been from the U.S. Embassy and looking for a lacking vacationer — that appeared extra plausible than actuality, the opposite deputy, Emir Perez, informed “Dateline.”

Primarily based on previous expertise, the deputies believed that in the event that they didn’t discover Armstrong in 5 days, they wouldn’t discover her in any respect, Fernandez stated.

June 29: Fooled by a need advert

After a number of days, the deputies nonetheless hadn’t seen Armstrong or gathered any promising leads pointing to the place in Santa Teresa she is likely to be. To make issues worse, the deputies stated, a number of investigators had turn out to be sick with Covid. And a storm that was prone to flip right into a hurricane with shelter-in-place orders was shortly approaching, Fernandez stated.

Pissed off, sick and practically out of time, the staff turned to what they described as their last-ditch try to search out Armstrong: believing she’d doubtless want cash within the close to future, they positioned a faux advert on a Santa Teresa Fb web page posing as a neighborhood hostel searching for a yoga teacher. 

When any individual responded who the deputies believed is likely to be Armstrong, they made an appointment to satisfy on June 29, the day earlier than the storm was forecast to hit. The particular person ended up canceling, Fernandez stated, however of their transient back-and-forth on WhatsApp, the job-seeker had offered clues about their doable location — a hostel known as Don Jon’s.

Perez stated he discovered a girl who appeared like Armstrong sitting with a person on the hostel’s patio. Posing as a Mexican vacationer, Perez started asking her in regards to the place in Spanish, they usually replied utilizing Google Translate, Perez stated. 

When Perez returned to the automotive, he stated: “100%, that’s her. She’s in there.’”

When native authorities helped apprehend Armstrong shortly after, she recognized herself to them as Ari Martin, Fernandez stated. However as soon as in custody, Fernandez recalled, he requested what her identify actually was.

 “And he or she checked out me for the longest time,” he stated. “She took an enormous pause, possibly for a minute, after which she informed me, ‘Kaitlin.’”

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