Mom plays key role in tracking down Phoenix fugitive accused of killing daughter

Police say Josephine Wentzel was the driving force behind solving the homicide case of her daughter, Krystal Mitchell.
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 4:41 PM PDT
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- It was in June 2016 when 30-year-old Krystal Mitchell was found dead inside an apartment in San Diego. The Phoenix mother of two had been strangled and beaten to death, and her boyfriend, Raymond McLeod Jr., was the prime suspect. But the ex-U.S. Marine was nowhere in sight. Authorities spent years trying to find McLeod with no success, until now.

Mitchell’s mother, Josephine Wentzel, played a key role in tracking McLeod down. “The number one thing for this (news) conference is, yes, I got him, and he’s not getting away again,” said Wentzel. “He’s never going to be released from jail, if I can have something to do with that.”

The strong-minded mom was front and center during a news conference in San Diego on Friday, where law enforcement agencies explained how they finally captured McLeod after six years on the run. Investigators believe McLeod, who is listed on the U.S. Marshalls 15 Most Wanted List, had been bouncing around from Mexico to Belize and spent the past two to three years hiding out in Central America.

“On Saturday August 20th, the U.S. Marshalls Service received a tip through the U.S. Marshalls website, indicating someone resembling McLeod’s characteristics may be working as an English instructor at a school in El Salvador,” said Chief Deputy Joseph O’Callahan, with the U.S. Marshall’s Office.

Several photos of McLeod were taken shortly after his arrest in El Salvador. Days later, McLeod was extradited to the U.S. and had his initial appearance in court Friday.

Wentzel is a former police detective, and authorities said she was instrumental in the search for McLeod. “She never let Krystal’s murder be forgotten,” said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. “She was the driving force, staying involved, chasing down tips, making certain the case never went stale, making certain talking with district attorney and U.S. Attorney’s office, to make sure we could find McLeod.”

Wentzel was asked how she feels now that an arrest has been made. “I will be satisfied when he is convicted for brutally murdering my daughter, and that he’s sentenced to life in prison,” she said. “I will be just as much involved as I was in the search to see this happen.”