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Crime News Breaking News

U.S. Marshals Capture '15 Most Wanted' Murder Suspect In El Salvador

After Raymond McLeod allegedly murdered his girlfriend, Krystal Mitchell, in 2016, he spent years on the run. U.S. Marshals captured him this week after getting a tip that he was teaching English in El Salvador.

By Constance Johnson
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A six-year manhunt for an Arizona man wanted for the 2016 murder of his girlfriend in San Diego ended earlier this week when he was captured in El Salvador.

Raymond McLeod, a Marine veteran, was on the U.S. Marshals' 15 Most Wanted List for allegedly killing his girlfriend, Krystal Mitchell, 30, in 2016.

The agency received a tip that McLeod, 37, was teaching English at school in Sonsonate — a city of around 70,000 people in the western part of the country. He was taken into custody by El Salvadoran law enforcement authorities on Monday without incident, according to U.S. Marshals.

McLeod confirmed his identity to U.S. Marshals and authorities with the U.S. Embassy, who accompanied local law enforcement.

He was subsequently extradited to the United States and is already back in San Diego. He has an arraignment scheduled for Friday and is being held at the Central San Diego jail.

A handout from the U.S Marshals Service of Raymond McLeod

San Diego Police officers responded to a 911 call about a woman not breathing on June 10, 2016, and arriving medics pronounced Krystal Mitchell dead on the scene. Homicide detectives then arrived and determined that there were signs of a struggle. They also concluded that Mitchell was last seen alive by McLeod — but he was nowhere to be found.

The couple lived in Phoenix, but were in San Diego visiting friends at the time of her death.

The San Diego District Attorney’s office charged McLeod with murder and issued a warrant for his arrest fairly quickly. In December 2016, U.S. Marshals joined the manhunt and, in February 2017, they obtained an arrest warrant for McLeod for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

U.S. Marshals described McLeod as an avid body builder and a heavy drinker with a history of domestic violence.  

“He’s arrogant, he’s ruthless,” Mitchell’s mom Josephine Funes Wentzel told the San Diego news station KSND last year. “He’s a charmer, and that’s the danger.”

Authorities suspect McLeod went to Mexico after the murder and then Central America. He was believed to be in Guatemala in 2017 and Belize in 2018.

U.S. Marshals offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest in April 2021; at the time, it was the largest reward offered for a fugitive on the most wanted list, according to the agency.

Raymond McLeod arrested by the U.S Marshals Service

“I am extremely gratified to hear the news of Raymond McLeod’s arrest without incident,” U.S. Marshals Director Ronald Davis said in a statement. “It is our sincere hope that his capture brings some sense of relief to Krystal Mitchell’s family, especially her mother, Josephine Wentzel, who has worked so diligently with law enforcement these past years to see this day of justice arrive.”

Wentzel — a former police detective — worked closely with authorities, but told local San Diego station KGTV that McLeod always seemed to be one step ahead.

"I tracked down the hostel he was at in Livingston, Guatemala and I was too late. By the time I got there, he was gone," she told the station.

"Being a former police officer helped me to understand the system and not be so frustrated and angry and take things personally, but it's the mother bear in me... it's that mother that cried out for justice," Wentzel said.

Then, after years of searching and waiting, she got the news she longed to hear.

"4:31 p.m.," Wentzel told the station. "I was just crying my eyes out like we did it. We did it."

Now she’s hoping to find some peace of mind.

"I was just glad that it's over, that I don't have to focus on trying to locate him, and I don't have to have nightmares about what he's doing to other women out there," she told KGTV.